Sen Chai, Technology and Operations Management DBA
Thesis Chair: Lee Fleming
Bibliometric and non-bibliometric sources of creativity and breakthrough
What are the sources of a creative breakthrough? Following widespread availability of computerized databases, much research has studied this question using bibliometric measures from papers or patents to assess subsequent success, typically measured as the number of publications or citations. However after collectively testing hypotheses from the literature, I find that the predictive power of extant theories onbreakthrough emergence is low, thereby indicating that understanding of this phenomenon is still limited. I, therefore, address this gap inductively by generating theory on additional sources of breakthrough emergence through fieldwork. Specifically I interview the risk set of scientists with breakthrough potential and provide a case historical analysis of a scientific breakthrough in biology, RNA interference (RNAi). Conceptualizing breakthrough as a process of multiple failures with eventual success, I find three themes at the basis of these failures - struggling in connecting the dots, blinded by confirmatory science and technology, and constrained by current dogma - that hindered earlier discovery, explore their causes and elaborate on practices to overcome them. Scientists surmounted these barriers by respectively broadening their scope of awareness through cross-disciplinary and cross-organism conference attendance and teaching, expanding their scope ofsearch through exploration at the fringe, and improving their research effectiveness through substantiation of results.