Conventional wisdom says brainstorming works best when people from different departments or groups come together to think of new ideas or solve problems. But research from Sarah Kaplan, a senior fellow at Wharton’s Mack Institute for Innovation Management, shows that diversity is not enough. What is also necessary is in-depth expertise of the topic at hand. Those two factors together result in truly innovative ideas and also yield the highest economic value.
Knowledge@Wharton recently spoke with Kaplan, who is a professor of strategic management at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and a former Wharton professor, to discuss her research. An edited transcript of the conversation follows.
Focus of the Research
I have been conducting research … on innovation, specifically as looked at through the patenting of technological innovations. I published a paper recently with a former doctoral student at the Rotman School, Keyvan Vakili — who’s now at the London Business School — called “The Double-Edged Sword of Recombination in Breakthrough Innovation.”