Jack of All Trades and Master of Knowledge: The Role of Diversity in Distant Knowledge Integration
Diversified knowledge input leads to impactful innovation, yet knowledge accumulation yields a trade-off between individual-level breadth and depth of knowledge. Therefore, we investigate the propensity of diversified researchers, relative to more specialized ones, to integrate new distant knowledge - from outside existing domains of expertise - in innovation. Using a natural experiment, the unexpected hack of Microsoft Kinect, we find evidence that diversified researchers have a higher propensity to engage with the Kinect, an embodiment of new distant knowledge, and produce more impactful research. Further, we show that this process is enabled by the larger and more diverse collaborator networks that diversified researchers utilize. Our results suggest that knowledge-based organizations seeking to innovate at the frontier should consider the benefits of hiring diverse researchers.