Artists Work Best Alone? The Relationship Between Lone Inventors, Complexity and Technological Novelty
29 Pages Posted: 1 Apr 2019 Last revised: 22 Dec 2020
Date Written: February 1, 2019
Scholars have in recent years highlighted the need to distinguish between novelty and impact of inventions, and to study the antecedents of novelty in their own right. Extant studies show that individuals working alone and/or outside organizations - referred to as lone inventors - are less likely than teams and organizations to generate breakthrough inventions, but are they more or less likely to generate highly novel inventions? This paper explores the relationship between lone inventors and the likelihood of generating technologically novel patents, as compared to inventors working alone and/or in organizations. All U.S. patents applied for between 1986 and 2010 are analyzed, and technological novelty is measured as new combination of technology codes. Both independent and single inventors are more likely to generate new combinations than teams and organizations, but the effect decreases with increasing complexity. These findings suggest that lone inventors have an advantage in novelty generation compared to collaboration in teams and/or organizations, and that the technological complexity of the invention moderates the relationship. The paper thereby contributes to the understanding of the role of lone inventors in innovation, as well as to the antecedents of technological novelty.
Keywords: Technological novelty; Lone inventors; Group creativity; Technological complexity; Patents
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