Lone Inventors As Source Of Breakthroughs: Myth Or Reality?

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Executive Summary

Are lone inventors more or less likely to invent breakthroughs? Recent research has attempted to resolve this question by considering the variance of creative outcome distributions. It has implicitly assumed a symmetric thickening or thinning of both tails, that a greater probability of breakthroughs comes at the cost of a greater probability of failures. In contrast, the authors propose that collaboration can have opposite effects at the two extremes: it reduces the probability of very poor outcomes - due to more rigorous selection processes - while simultaneously increasing the probability of extremely successful outcomes - due to greater recombinant opportunity in creative search.

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