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Melissa Schilling

New York University, USA

Where do breakthrough ideas come from?

Most innovations and scientific discoveries are incre- mental advances of existing knowledge and technology. Some innovations and discoveries, however, appear to be much larger leaps, and can be very disconnected from, or disruptive to, existing technology trajectories and scientific theories and paradigms. Where do such breakthrough ideas come from, and is there any way to foster their discovery? This presentation will integrate results from two studies: A seven-year multiple case study research project on serial breakthrough innovators, and a large sample analysis of “outlier patents.” These studies reveal common patterns – including innovator characteristics, experiences, and search processes — underlying the generation and pursuit of breakthrough ideas.

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