Slack Time and Innovation
91 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2015 Last revised: 12 Feb 2018
Date Written: August 23, 2017
The relationship between slack resources and innovation is complex, with the literature linking slack to both breakthrough innovations and resource misallocation. We reconcile these conflicting views by focusing on a novel mechanism: the role slack time plays in the endogenous allocation of time and effort to innovative projects. We develop a theoretical model that distinguishes between periods of high (work weeks) versus low (break weeks) opportunity cost of time. Low-opportunity cost time during breaks weeks may induce: 1) lower quality ideas to be developed (a selection effect); 2) more effort to be applied for any given idea quality (an effort effect); and 3) an increase in the use of teams because scheduling is less constrained (a coordination effect). As a result, the effect of an increase in slack time on innovative outcomes is ambiguous because the selection effect may induce more low quality ideas, whereas the effort and coordination effect may lead to more high quality, complex ideas. We test this framework using data on college breaks and on 165,410 Kickstarter projects across the US. Consistent with the predictions, during university breaks more projects are posted in the focal regions, and the increase is largest for projects of either very high or very low quality. Furthermore, projects posted during breaks are more complex, and involve larger teams with diverse skills. We discuss implications for the design of policies on slack time.
Keywords: crowdfunding, entrepreneurship, slack time, low-opportunity cost time, teamwork, internet
JEL Classification: L26, O31, J22
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation