The Determinants of Individual Performance and Collective Value in Private-Collective Software Innovation

41 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2010 Last revised: 21 Feb 2014

Ned Gulley

The MathWorks, Inc.

Karim R. Lakhani

Harvard Business School - Technology and Operations Management Group; Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science; Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society

Date Written: February 9, 2010

Abstract

We investigate if the actions by individuals in creating effective new innovations are aligned with the reuse of those innovations by others in a private-collective software development context. This relationship is studied in the setting of eleven “wiki-like” programming contests, where contest submissions are open for reuse by others, each involving more than one hundred contributors and several thousand attempts to generate, over a one-week period, the “best” software solution to a difficult programming challenge. We find that greater amounts of new code and novel recombinations of others’ code, in a contest submission, increases both the probability of achieving top rank and the subsequent reuse by others in their own submission (community value). While, increasing use of borrowed code in a submission reduces the probability of achieving top rank, but increases the community value of the submission. Code structures that are more non-conforming to commonly accepted programming conventions similarly increase the probability of generating a top performer, but reduce subsequent reuse by others. Surprisingly, greater code complexity in a submission increases both the odds of generating a top performing entry and its community value. We discuss the implications of these findings in light of the literature on private-collective innovation with an emphasis on the importance of considering both individual and community perspectives as they relate to knowledge creation, reuse and recombination for innovation.

Suggested Citation

Gulley, Ned and Lakhani, Karim R., The Determinants of Individual Performance and Collective Value in Private-Collective Software Innovation (February 9, 2010). Harvard Business School Technology & Operations Mgt. Unit Working Paper No. 10-065. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1550352 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1550352

Ned Gulley

The MathWorks, Inc. ( email )

3 Apple Hill Drive
Natick, MA 01760-2098
United States

Karim R. Lakhani (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School - Technology and Operations Management Group ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States
617-495-6741 (Phone)

Harvard Institute for Quantitative Social Science ( email )

1737 Cambridge St.
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Harvard University - Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society ( email )

Harvard Law School
23 Everett, 2nd Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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