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Why disseminating new ideas often fails

PRESS RELEASE 2 November 2017 - When are creative ideas both new and useful? We normally only get to see the success stories, which makes it difficult to conclude if new ideas do indeed tend to be more useful than ideas that are only marginally original. Recent research shows that it is social factors rather than usefulness that decide if new ideas are successful or not.

Social factors

If new ideas spring forth from the elites, from the local environment, or if there are few other new ideas around, there is more of a chance that they will be used. If these criteria are not met in your case, your creative idea may not get picked up, however useful and new it may be.

These are conclusions drawn by PhD candidate Richard Haans on the basis of his PhD research carried out in the Dutch creative sector and the world of academia. In his research, he employs an innovative research method to analyze large-scale text corpora and thus  identify truly innovative ideas, divorced from the characteristics of those that produced them and without concentrating merely on the success stories.

Innovative and impactful research

One of his studies shows that new research topics in science are successful only if they are introduced by scientists affiliated to one of the world’s top universities.

“Because in science you are predominantly judged on how innovative and impactful your ideas are, it appears to be very difficult to break through and join the ranks of the best in the world, unless you are already affiliated to a prestigious institution,” Haans concludes on the basis of this study. It is why he advocates changing the academic system, with less emphasis on the introduction of new ideas, and more room for replicating and bringing together already existing ideas. “Because another thing that my research shows is that the differences between the top and everything below it are less marked for articles that try to combine existing ideas in a new way,” Haans explains, “More ‘incremental’ research like that is not necessarily less good – there are multiple ways leading to creative work.”

Richard Haans (1991) got his BA in International Business Administration and his MSc in Organization and Strategy at Tilburg University. He worked on his PhD thesis at Tilburg University from 2014 to 2017. Since June of 2017, Haans has been affiliated to the Rotterdam School of Management of Erasmus University Rotterdam as an assistant professor, doing research on the dissemination of new ideas and unusual behavior by entrepreneurs and companies, and teaching in the field of strategic management, entrepreneurship and research methods.

Note to the editors

Richard Haans (1991) will defend his PhD thesis on November 6, at 14:00 hrs. in the auditorium of Tilburg University, Warandelaan 2. The title of his thesis: “Disentangling novelty and usefulness: Essays on creativity in the arts and sciences.” Supervisors: Prof. Arjen van Witteloostuijn and Prof. Geert Duysters. Copies for the press can be obtained via Richard Haans can be contacted via, tel. +31 (0)6-13898515.