The art of cross fertilising ideas

Knowledge bridging - the sharing of ideas across disciplines - can be a powerful thing.

by Knowledge@Wharton
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

Take, for instance, stereo speaker manufacturer Bose Corp which used its knowledge of acoustics technology to create a brand new shock absorber for the auto market, built out of high-voltage electrical coils and magnets rather than liquid.

Professor David Hsu of Wharton and Progessor Kwanghui Lim from the National University of Singapore investigated the phenomenon of knowledge bridging in a study focused on the biotech industry. The results indicated that company performance was improved by knowledge bridging and that having a diverse range of researchers strengthened the chances of success. The factors of venture capital and alliances with other firms were not as important as expected.

The results suggest that companies might want to brush up on their human resources techniques to encourage bridging. The authors point to Google and 3M as exemplars, the latter known for its $50,000-$100,000 'genius grants' which enable researchers to work on their own ideas.

But a word of warning: the authors also acknowledge the research is limited. It is focused on one sector and they were not able to examine how many patents were turned down. They only saw those that were accepted.

In biotech startups, knowledge bridging can be the key to creativity
Review by Morice Mendoza

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