Most of society’s innovation systems – academic science, the patent system, open source, etc. – are “open”in the sense that they are designed to facilitate knowledge disclosure among innovators. An essential difference across innovation systems is whether disclosure is of intermediate progress and solutions or of completed innovations. We theorize and present experimental evidence linking intermediate versus final disclosure to an ‘incentives-versus-reuse’ tradeoff and to a transformation of the innovation search process. We find intermediate disclosure has the advantage of efficiently steering development towards improving existing solution approaches, but also has the effect of limiting experimentation and narrowing technological search. We discuss the comparative advantages of intermediate versus final disclosure policies in fostering innovation.
Effort and incentives: Active participation rate, number of submissions per active participant. Reuse of intermediate solutions: Number of active and inactive participants who examined submissions, number of examinations of intermediate submissions by active and inactive participants.
Effort and incentives: Under intermediate disclosure, participation (number of active participants) and effort (number of submissions) were lower than under final disclosure by 26% and 56%, respectively. Reuse of intermediate solutions: Disclosure and reuse in intermediate disclosure (where disclosure and reuse is permitted by definition) was widespread and frequent. Many subjects, both active and inactively participating examined high numbers of intermediate submissions. Performance patterns and trajectories: Under Final disclosure, performance patterns are less stable. Under Intermediate disclosure, patterns of performance smoothly rise over time and eventually cluster on maximal performance. Diversity of solution approaches: Fewer solutions approaches were tried by submitters in Intermediate Disclosure.