One Foot in, One Foot Out: How Does Individuals’ External Search Breadth Affect Innovation Outcomes?

40 Pages Posted: 13 Dec 2013

See all articles by Linus Dahlander

Linus Dahlander

Stanford University; Imperial College London

Siobhan Clare O'Mahony

Boston University School of Management

David Gann

Imperial College London - Innovation Studies Centre

Date Written: December 12, 2013

Abstract

The ‘variance hypothesis’ predicts that external search breadth will lead to innovation outcomes, but time for search is fixed and cultivating breadth takes time. How does individuals’ external search breadth affect innovation outcomes? We match survey data with complete patent records, to examine the search behaviors of elite experts at one of the world’s most innovative firms. Counter to expectations, individuals who spent more time inside the firm were more likely to be innovative. Individuals with high external search breadth were more innovative only when they allocated more attention to those sources. Our research identifies limits to the ‘variance hypothesis’ and reveals two successful approaches to innovation search: ‘cosmopolitans’ who cultivate and attend to external sources and ‘locals’ who draw upon internal sources.

Keywords: search, innovation, individuals, attention, scientists

Suggested Citation

Dahlander, Linus and O'Mahony, Siobhan Clare and Gann, David M., One Foot in, One Foot Out: How Does Individuals’ External Search Breadth Affect Innovation Outcomes? (December 12, 2013). Boston U. School of Management Research Paper No. 2013-12, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2366794 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2366794

Linus Dahlander (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Imperial College London ( email )

South Kensington Campus
Exhibition Road
London, Greater London SW7 2AZ
United Kingdom

Siobhan Clare O'Mahony

Boston University School of Management ( email )

595 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA MA 02215
United States

David M. Gann

Imperial College London - Innovation Studies Centre ( email )

South Kensington Campus
Exhibition Road
London SW7 2AZ, SW7 2AZ
United Kingdom

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