One foot in, one foot out: How does individuals' external search breadth affect innovation outcomes?

Linus Dahlander, Siobhan O'Mahony, David M. Gann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

104 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The "variance hypothesis" predicts that external search breadth leads to innovation outcomes, but people have limited attention for search and cultivating breadth consumes attention. How does individuals' search breadth affect innovation outcomes? How does individuals' allocation of attention affect the efficacy of search breadth? We matched survey data with complete patent records, to examine the search behaviors of elite boundary spanners at IBM. Surprisingly, individuals who allocated attention to people inside the firm were more innovative. Individuals with high external search breadth were more innovative only when they allocated more attention to those sources. Our research identifies limits to the "variance hypothesis" and reveals two successful approaches to innovation search: "cosmopolitans" who cultivate and attend to external people and "locals" who draw upon internal people.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)280-302
Number of pages23
JournalStrategic Management Journal
Volume37
Issue number2
Early online date24 Oct 2014
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2016

Keywords

  • attention
  • boundary-spanning
  • individuals
  • innovation
  • scientists
  • search

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Strategy and Management

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