Teams for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Ethan Mollick, Management, The Wharton School; Aaron Schecter, University of Georgia; Jacqueline Ng, Laboratory for Innovation Science at Harvard; and Noshir Contractor, Northwestern University

Abstract: Grand Innovation Prizes are contests where a prize is given for the first team to achieve a radical technical goal–such as reaching space with a commercial passenger rocket. The phenomenon of GIPs have become an important topic for study in recent years. Most of the work has gone into studying the conditions under which prizes work, and how they incentivize innovation. But GIPs also provide an opportunity to examine the role of team composition and team type on the process of creating breakthrough innovation.

This project will use data on the X Prize to examine two critical questions about teams and innovation. Two specific research questions are of interest:

  1. There has been substantial work on team diversity and performance in innovative industries but the mechanisms of action are uncertain. Using the X Prize data, we will examine the ways in which team composition, internal team structure, and motivation interact to determine both team survival and innovation.
  2. Innovation researchers have always been interested in how different types of innovators produce innovations with different characteristics. It is rare to have the same problem attacked by different types of organizations. This study will use the data to measure performance differences and outcomes among different forms of innovators: academics versus tinkerers versus established firms versus startups, for example, and how these archetypes differ in motivation, approach, and outcome.