Melissa Schilling: Where do breakthrough ideas come from?

Most innovations and scientific discoveries are incremental 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.

Melissa Schilling

Professor, New York University

Melissa A. Schilling is the Herzog Family Professor of Management at New York University Stern School of Business. She received her Bachelor of Science in business administration from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She received her Doctor of Philosophy in strategic management from the University of Washington. Professor Schilling’s research focuses on innovation and strategy in high technology industries such as smartphones, video games, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, electric vehicles, and renewable energies. She is particularly interested in platform dynamics, networks, creativity, and breakthrough innovation. Her textbook, Strategic Management of Technological Innovation (now in its fifth edition), is the number one innovation strategy text in the world. She is also coauthor of Strategic Management: An integrated approach (now in its twelfth edition).