The Double-Edged Sword of Recombination in Breakthrough Innovation

Posted: 9 May 2013 Last revised: 13 Dec 2016

See all articles by Sarah Kaplan

Sarah Kaplan

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

Keyvan Vakili

London Business School

Date Written: February 3, 2013

Abstract

We explore the double-edged sword of recombination in generating breakthrough innovation: recombination of distant or diverse knowledge is needed because knowledge in a narrow domain might trigger myopia, but recombination can be counterproductive when local search is needed to identify anomalies. We take into account how creativity shapes both the cognitive novelty of the idea and the subsequent realization of economic value. We develop a text-based measure of novel ideas in patents using topic modeling to identify those patents that originate new topics in a body of knowledge. We find that, counter to theories of recombination, patents that originate new topics are more likely to be associated with local search, while economic value is the product of broader recombinations as well as novelty.

Keywords: breakthrough innovation; recombination; patents; creativity; topic modeling; cognition

JEL Classification: O31, O32, M13, C49

Suggested Citation

Kaplan, Sarah and Vakili, Keyvan, The Double-Edged Sword of Recombination in Breakthrough Innovation (February 3, 2013). Strategic Management Journal, 36: 1435-1457, 2015, DOI:10.1002/smj.2294, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2261731 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2261731

Sarah Kaplan (Contact Author)

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management ( email )

105 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6 M5S1S4
Canada

Keyvan Vakili

London Business School ( email )

Sussex Place
Regent's Park
London, London NW1 4SA
United Kingdom

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