Can Innovators Be Created? Experimental Evidence from an Innovation Contest

36 Pages Posted: 21 Feb 2018

See all articles by Joshua Graff Zivin

Joshua Graff Zivin

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IRPS); National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Elizabeth Lyons

University of California, San Diego (UCSD)

Date Written: February 2018

Abstract

Existing theories and empirical research on how innovation occurs largely assume that innovativeness is an inherent characteristic of the individual and that people with this innate ability select into jobs that require it. In this paper, we investigate whether people who do not self-select into being innovators can be induced to innovate, and whether they innovate differently than those who do self-select into innovating. To test these questions, we designed and implemented an innovation contest for engineering and computer science students which allowed us to differentiate between those who self-select into innovative activities and those who are willing to undertake them only after receiving an additional incentive for doing so. We also randomly offer encouragement to subsets of both the induced and self-selected contest participants in order to examine the importance of confidence-building interventions on each sample. We find that while induced participants have different observable characteristics than those that were ‘innately’ drawn to the competition, on average, the success of induced participants was statistically indistinguishable from their self-selected counterparts and encouragement does not change this result. Heterogeneity in treatment effects suggests an important role for the use of targeted interventions.

Institutional subscribers to the NBER working paper series, and residents of developing countries may download this paper without additional charge at www.nber.org.

Suggested Citation

Graff Zivin, Joshua and Lyons, Elizabeth, Can Innovators Be Created? Experimental Evidence from an Innovation Contest (February 2018). NBER Working Paper No. w24339. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3127168

Joshua Graff Zivin (Contact Author)

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies (IRPS) ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
La Jolla, CA 92093-0519
United States

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Elizabeth Lyons

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Mail Code 0502
La Jolla, CA 92093-0112
United States

Register to save articles to
your library

Register

Paper statistics

Downloads
9
Abstract Views
283
PlumX Metrics