Engineering Serendipity: When does Knowledge Sharing Lead to Knowledge Production?

Jacqueline Lane, Ina Ganguli, Patrick Gaule, Eva Guinan, Karim Lakhani

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We investigate how knowledge similarity between two individuals is systematically related to the likelihood that a serendipitous encounter results in knowledge production. We conduct a field experiment at a medical research symposium, where we exogenously varied opportunities for face‐to‐face encounters among 15,817 scientist‐pairs. Our data include direct observations of interaction patterns collected using sociometric badges, and detailed, longitudinal data of the scientists' postsymposium publication records over 6 years. We find that interacting scientists acquire more knowledge and coauthor 1.2 more papers when they share some overlapping interests, but cite each other's work between three and seven times less when they are from the same field. Our findings reveal both collaborative and competitive effects of knowledge similarity on knowledge production outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
JournalStrategic Management Journal
Early online date15 Nov 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 15 Nov 2020

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