Does expertise in the field of the problem actually hurt a solver’s chances of solving it?

HBS Faculty Member Karim R. Lakhani

I found this study by HBS’s Karim Lakhani very insightful.  Please note particularly:

“At Harvard Business School, Lakhani led a study of hundreds of scientific problems posted on InnoCentive.   These were problems that the laboratories of science-driven companies had mostly failed to solve,  which is why they turned to InnoCentive.  They found that InnoCentive’s network solved nearly 30 percent of them.

What made for success?  InnoCentive asks solvers to check boxes indicating the different scientific fields that interest them.   The more diverse the interests of the base of solvers, the more likely the problem was to be solved.    The study also found that expertise in the field of the problem actually hurt a solver’s chances. “The further the problem from the solver’s expertise, the more likely they are to solve it,” Lakhini and his co-authors concluded.  If the problem fell completely outside a solver’s expertise, that raised his or her chance of success by 10 percent.

About Arie Goldshlager

Customer Insight, Customer Strategy, and Innovation Consultant
This entry was posted in Innovation. Bookmark the permalink.

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