Is There An Ideal Work Environment For Inventors?

That question seems an inherently foolish one. After all, inventors are far from a homogenous group of individuals so must surely appreciate conditions based upon their own personal circumstances. Some may like a noisy hubbub, while others prefer quiet solitude.

Researchfrom the University of South Florida suggests, however, that there are certain working conditions that support innovation, and especially when inventors are breaking out into new knowledge domains.

Supporting explorers

The researchers refer to these people who venture outside of their core area of expertise as “explorers”. They can not only examine new subject domains but also industries, regions, and so on. The researchers believe that they’re most productive when they work in organizations that support flatter communication across the company rather than a more hierarchical form.

The researchers believe that this kind of compartmentalized communication allows for a more nurturing environment to emerge, with inventors thus able to better understand how their inventions are valued and where more support is needed (and indeed available).

“Our research deepens our understanding on the roles that explorers play in innovation,” the researchers suggest. “The research also helps us understand what is the desirable work environment that we should provide for explorers to succeed.”

Other major takeaways include:

  • Exploring new domains doesn’t help inventors increase the quantity or quality of patents unless they work for an organization that decompartmentalizes internal communication.
  • Research and development employees who explore other domains are most successful in organizations that encourage and facilitate openness in internal communication. The two-way communication nurtures cross-unit interactions, meetings, collaborations and managerial feedback.
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