How Do You Search for the Best Alternative? Experimental Evidence on Search Strategies to Solve Complex Problems

38 Pages Posted: 8 Dec 2015 Last revised: 22 Aug 2018

See all articles by Svenja C. Sommer

Svenja C. Sommer

HEC Paris - Operations Management and Information Technology

Elliot Bendoly

The Ohio State University

Stelios Kavadias

Cambridge Judge Business School

Date Written: August 21, 2018

Abstract

Through a controlled two-stage experiment, we explore the performance of solution search strategies to resolve problems of varying complexity. We validate theoretical results that collaborative group structures may search more effectively in problems of low complexity, but are outperformed by nominal structures at higher complexity levels. We call into question the dominance of the nominal group technique. Further close examination of search strategies reveals important insights: the number of generated solutions, a typical proxy for good problem-solving performance, does not consistently drive performance benefits across different levels of problem complexity. The average distance of search steps, and the problem space coverage play also critical roles. Moreover, their effect is contingent on complexity: a wider variety of solutions is helpful only in complex problems. Overall, we caution management about the limitations of generic, albeit common rules-of-thumb such as “generate as many ideas as possible”.

Keywords: Complexity, problem solving, search, innovation

Suggested Citation

Sommer, Svenja C. and Bendoly, Elliot and Kavadias, Stylianos, How Do You Search for the Best Alternative? Experimental Evidence on Search Strategies to Solve Complex Problems (August 21, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2700210 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2700210

Svenja C. Sommer

HEC Paris - Operations Management and Information Technology ( email )

1, rue de la Liberation
Jouy en Josas, 78351
France

Elliot Bendoly

The Ohio State University ( email )

Fisher College of Business
2100 Neil Ave
Columbus, OH 43212
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.bizbreed.com

Stylianos Kavadias (Contact Author)

Cambridge Judge Business School ( email )

Trumpington Street
Cambridge, CB2 1AG
United Kingdom

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