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Inventing while you work: Knowledge, non-R&D learning and innovation

“Intuition, judgment, creativity are basically expressions of capabilities for recognition and response based upon experience and knowledge (p. 128–129)” (Simon, 1997). Workers gain experience and knowledge in the course of their normal jobs. Therefore, innovative ideas can be generated from knowledge built from learning opportunities across the firm (not just the R&D lab). Employees working for different functions (R&D and outside of R&D) in an organization have different work practices and build their learning through different processes. Moreover, the relative effectiveness of learning by different work practices for innovation is contingent on the nature of knowledge, characterized by generality (i.e., high mobility/transferability) and visibility (i.e., tighter links between actions and outcomes). Using multiple datasets combining public and private data and focusing on births of innovations, this study shows how the nature of knowledge affects differences in the innovation productivity of R&D and non-R&D work. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of these insights for innovation management and policy.