(with Rembrand Koning)
Why do some people generate better ideas than others? We conducted a field experiment at a startup bootcamp to evaluate the impact of informal conversations on the quality of product ideas generated by participants. Specifically, we examine how the personality of an innovator (their openness to experience, capturing creativity) and the personalities of her randomly assigned conversational peers (their extraversion, measuring willingness to share information) affects the innovator’s ideas. We find that open innovators who spoke with extroverted peers generated significantly better ideas than others at the bootcamp. However, closed individuals produced mediocre ideas regardless of with whom they spoke, suggesting limited benefits of conversations for these people. More surprisingly, open individuals, who are believed to be inherently creative, produced worse ideas after they spoke with introverted peers, suggesting individual creativity’s dependence on external information. Our study demonstrates the importance of considering the traits of both innovators and their conversational peers in predicting who will generate the best ideas.
(with Rembrand Koning)
When do peers affect performance? In this article, we propose that individuals or teams with many preexisting connections interact with fewer of their nearby peers and are thus less affected by them. We test this hypothesis using data from a field experiment conducted at a startup bootcamp in New Delhi, India. We find that teams whose members have existing relationships with others in the bootcamp interact less with neighboring teams, and thus their performance is unaffected by their peers. In contrast, peers affect the performance of teams without preexisting connections. Our findings highlight how preexisting connections, which are often a source of knowledge and influence, can limit new interactions and thus the power of social incentives and peer effects to improve performance.
Forthcoming in Strategic Management Journal
(with Aaron Chatterji, Solene Delecourt and Rembrand Koning)
Why do some entrepreneurs thrive while others fail? We explore whether the advice entrepreneurs receive about managing their employees influences their startup’s performance. We conducted a randomized field experiment in India with 100 high-growth technology firms whose founders received in-person advice from other entrepreneurs who varied in their managerial style. We find that entrepreneurs who received advice from peers with a formal approach to managing people—instituting regular meetings, setting goals consistently, and providing frequent feedback to employees—grew 28% larger and were 10 percentage points less likely to fail than those who got advice from peers with an informal approach to managing people, two years after our intervention. Entrepreneurs with MBAs or accelerator experience did not respond to this intervention, suggesting that formal training can limit the spread of peer advice.