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(Un)Conventional Combinations: At the Origins of Breakthrough Inventions

51 Pages Posted: 26 May 2015  

Antonio Della Malva

KU Leuven - Faculty of Business and Economics (FEB)

Massimo Riccaboni

KU Leuven - Department of Managerial Economics, Strategy, and Innovation; IMT Institute for Advanced Studies

Date Written: October 2014

Abstract

Impactful inventions carry forward combinations of components which depart from common practices: they remove restrictions in the knowledge space by breaking conventional rules. In this paper we present a novel measure of the extent to which combinations in the inventive process conform to established practices. We borrow an established approach from the literature on product market diversification and adapt it to measure how combinations are typical or unconventional. We find that most of the inventive activities are grounded in conventional efforts, with rare instances of unconventional connections. Unconventionality is more likely to occur with experience, in teams and in large organizations. Moreover, patents which cite a widespread spectrum of previous results have a higher chance to identify unconventional connections. We also observe that inventions carrying forward unconventional combinations are cited more by future patent applications than conventional inventions.

JEL Classification: O31, O32, C81, D01

Suggested Citation

Della Malva, Antonio and Riccaboni, Massimo, (Un)Conventional Combinations: At the Origins of Breakthrough Inventions (October 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2610562 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2610562

Antonio Della Malva (Contact Author)

KU Leuven - Faculty of Business and Economics (FEB) ( email )

Naamsestraat 69
Leuven, B-3000
Belgium

Massimo Riccaboni

KU Leuven - Department of Managerial Economics, Strategy, and Innovation ( email )

Naamsestraat 69 bus 3500
Leuven, 3000
Belgium

IMT Institute for Advanced Studies ( email )

Complesso San Micheletto
Lucca, 55100
Italy

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