Greenlighting Innovative Projects: How Evaluation Format Shapes the Perceived Feasibility of Novel Ideas

42 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2024

See all articles by Jacqueline N. Lane

Jacqueline N. Lane

Harvard Business School - Technology and Operations Management Unit

Tianxi Cai

Harvard University - Department of Biomedical Informatics

Michael Menietti

Harvard University - Business School (HBS)

Griffin Weber

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School

Eva Guinan

Harvard Medical School; Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Date Written: March 2024

Abstract

Evaluation of novel projects is essential for scientific and technological advancement. However, evaluator bias toward a project’s potential can obscure its limitations. This study investigates evaluation formats by contrasting combined assessments of novelty and feasibility with feasibility-only evaluations. In collaboration with a leading research university, we executed a field experiment during a grant-funding opportunity where evaluators were exogenously assigned either a “combined-standard” evaluation or a “feasibility-only” evaluation. Results indicate that, relative to feasibility-only evaluators, combined-standard evaluators assign higher feasibility scores to novel projects, possibly overlooking limitations that could hinder a project’s implementation. In contrast, a feasibility-only approach might improve early detection of reasons novel projects could fail, suggesting that single-criterion evaluations of project feasibility could be more effective in recognizing potential pitfalls in innovative projects.

Keywords: scientific and technological innovation, project evaluation, feasibility, novelty, field experiment

Suggested Citation

N. Lane, Jacqueline and Cai, Tianxi and Menietti, Michael and Weber, Griffin and Guinan, Eva, Greenlighting Innovative Projects: How Evaluation Format Shapes the Perceived Feasibility of Novel Ideas (March 2024). Harvard Business School Technology & Operations Mgt. Unit Working Paper No. 24-064, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4769282 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4769282

Jacqueline N. Lane (Contact Author)

Harvard Business School - Technology and Operations Management Unit ( email )

Boston, MA 02163
United States

Tianxi Cai

Harvard University - Department of Biomedical Informatics ( email )

Michael Menietti

Harvard University - Business School (HBS) ( email )

Soldiers Field Road
Morgan 270C
Boston, MA 02163
United States

Griffin Weber

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School ( email )

United States
(617) 432-2144 (Phone)

Eva Guinan

Harvard Medical School ( email )

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
450 Brookline Avenue, Suite M1B29
Boston, MA 02215
United States
617-632-4932 (Phone)
617-632-3770 (Fax)

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute ( email )

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
450 Brookline Avenue, Suite M1B29
Boston, MA 02215
United States
617-632-4932 (Phone)
617-632-3770 (Fax)

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