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The Making of Creative Breakthroughs

Acar, O. A. ORCID: 0000-0003-1993-0921 The Making of Creative Breakthroughs. California Management Review,


Imagine your pharmaceutical company is struggling with an innovation problem related to molecular biology. Who would you go for help, a biologist who is an expert in the problem domain or a social anthropologist?

If you are like most, you will consult the biologist. And this is for a good reason; research has provided many strong arguments for why an insider like a biologist rather than an outsider like an anthropologist is more likely to solve your innovation problem. After all, insiders know the territory, which is often viewed as a necessary condition for being able to make a creative contribution to a domain.

While consulting an anthropologist for a molecular biology problem might seem far-fetched, many major breakthroughs in biology have actually originated from unexpected sources including anthropologists. This is often attributed to fresh perspectives of outsiders that might be novel for the problem domain. A case in point outside the field of biology is the Auto-Tune technology. Described as “the invention that changed music forever”, it was developed by a complete outsider to music industry, a petroleum engineer named Harold Hildebrand.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the submitted version of an article published in California Management Review, SAGE. The published version can be read online at
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GN Anthropology
H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Q Science > QH Natural history > QH301 Biology
Departments: Bayes Business School > Management
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