Can specialization foster creativity? : mathematics and the collapse of the Soviet Union

Teodoridis, F, Vakili, K and Bikard, M (2017) Can specialization foster creativity? : mathematics and the collapse of the Soviet Union. [Conference proceeding]


Past research emphasizes that high levels of specialization can decrease creative performance because creative workers end up reusing familiar components in familiar ways. We argue that this view of specialization might be overly pessimistic. At times, knowledge domains evolve fast–i.e., new components become rapidly available. In those situations, deep expertise places specialists in an advantageous position to identify emerging creative opportunities. To test our theory, we exploit the collapse of the Soviet Union as a natural experiment that suddenly moved the frontier in some domains of theoretical mathematics more so than in others. We find that specialists in domains that advanced the most produce not only more publications, but also more breakthroughs than their colleagues who were straddling knowledge domains. Specialists also increase their rate of collaboration dramatically. Thus, under some circumstances, specialization can constitute a superior strategy to brokerage for those seeking high creative performance.

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Item Type: Conference proceeding
Subject Areas: Strategy and Entrepreneurship
Date Deposited: 09 Oct 2019 18:27
Last Modified: 06 Jun 2022 16:02

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