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Paradise of Novelty—Or Loss of Human Capital? Exploring New Fields and Inventive Output


Does a person become more or less creative when exploring a new field? Exploring new fields exposes a person to new knowledge that might increase the novelty of inventive output; at the same time, exploration means a lack of prior expertise and a learning challenge that might harm the value of that output. Using new combinations as a measure of novelty and citations as a measure of value, we demonstrate correlations between exploring new fields and increased novelty-but decreased value-in an inventor-firm fixed effects panel. The negative effect of exploring new fields on value is muted when the novice collaborates with experts or uses the scientific literature in the new field. We find consistent results using an unintended change in noncompete labor law as an exogenous influence on exploring new fields. The research illustrates two opposite influences of exploration on creative output and suggests how inventors can reduce the downside of entering a new field.

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