Detrimental Collaborations in Creative Work: Evidence from Economics
37 Pages Posted: 21 Aug 2019 Last revised: 4 Jan 2020
Date Written: December 15, 2019
Prior research on collaboration and creativity has mostly assumed that individuals choose to collaborate because collaboration positively contributes to output quality. In this paper, we argue that collaboration conceals individual contributions, and that the presence of a collaboration credit premium—when the sum of fractional credits allocated to each collaborator exceeds 100%—might motivate individuals to collaborate even when their collaboration hurts output quality. We test our argument on a sample of economists in academia. To estimate the causal effect of collaboration, we take advantage of the norm of alphabetical ordering of authors on scientific articles published in economics journals. This norm means that economists whose family name begins with a letter from the beginning of the alphabet receive systematically more credit for collaborative work than economists whose family name begins with a letter from the end of the alphabet. Using this systematic difference as an instrument for collaborative behavior, we show that economists sometimes choose to collaborate even in cases where this choice decreases output quality. Collaboration can therefore create a misalignment between the incentives of creative workers and the prospects of the project.
Keywords: Collaboration, Credit Allocation, Creativity, Credit Premium, Innovation
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