Innovation Experiments: Researching Technical Advance, Knowledge Production, and the Design of Supporting Institutions
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This paper discusses several challenges in designing field experiments to better understand how organizational and institutional design shapes innovation outcomes and the production of knowledge. We proceed to describe the field experimental research program carried out by our Crowd Innovation Laboratory at Harvard University to clarify how we have attempted to address these research design challenges. This program has simultaneously solved important practical innovation problems for partner organizations, like NASA and Harvard Medical School, while contributing research advances, particularly in relation to innovation contests and tournaments.
The experimental research described in this paper has been accomplished at the Crowd Innovation Lab | NASA Tournament Lab at Harvard University’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science. We are grateful for support from NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate for their support in establishing the lab. In particular, Jason Crusan and Dr. Jeffrey Davis helped create the rationale for the integration of a research program on innovation with NASA’s operational technology needs. Further support from NASA’s personnel including Karl Becker, Lynn Buquo, Mike Ching, Carol Galica, Steve Rader, Allison, Wolff, and Carolyn Woolverton, has been invaluable with lab operations. The following TopCoder executives and managers (current and former) provided platform access, experimental support and advise on community relations: Ambi Del Villar, Mike Epner, Jack Hughes, Robert Hughes, Ira Heffan, Tim Kirchner, Andy LaMora, Mike Lydon, Dave Messenger, Mike Morris, Jennifer Odess, Rashid Sial, and Narinder Singh, and Ashley Steele. Harvard Medical School’s Dean for Clinical and Translational Research, Professor Lee Nadler, leadership of the Reactor Program, Harvard Catalyst, Professors Eva C. Guinan and Anthony Hollenberg and Program Director Gary Gray were essential partners in establishing field experimental projects in an academic research setting. Over the years we have been privileged to have the following members of our lab participate with us on our various projects: Michael Menietti, Andrea Blasco, Annika Mueller, Christoph Reidl, Ina Ganguli and Partick Gaule. The lab is managed by Jin Paik and Rinat Sergeev serves as senior data scientist. The HBS Division of Research and Faculty Development and the London Business School have also supported the work described in this paper.