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How to Encourage Big Ideas

What are the key elements to breakthrough research? Time, risk, and the possibility of failure, says a new paper out of MIT. These factors, which...


What are the key elements to breakthrough research? Time, risk, and the possibility of failure, says a new paper out of MIT. These factors, which encourage creativity and out-of-box thinking, are "much more likely" to yield innovative and influential research as compared to the kind of short-term, results-oriented research that is the norm.The report, titled "Incentives and Creativity: Evidence from the Academic Life Sciences," opens with a great anecdote about a scientist who, when he was awarded a grant from NIH, was was strongly discouraged from pursuing a certain study-it just seemed too out there. He pursued it anyway, and in 2007 won the Nobel Prize for a technique he'd developed thanks to that initial research.There are countless other examples, and they all point to this same idea: That the short-term research project model-de rigeur at research universities-is not without merit, but doesn't yield the kind of breakthrough innovation the longer-term grants do, either. I imagine their research can be fairly applied to other kinds of grant giving as well, from the nonprofit and foundation world, say.You can read the entire paper here.