Using Technology to Augment Professionals, Not Replace Them, for Innovative Problem Solving
Management & Human Resources
Speaker: Hila Lifshitz-Assaf
New York University, Stern School of Business
While in some technological and scientific areas innovation is flourishing, in others it is stalling, leaving important problems unsolved for decades. This becomes very important when innovation in stalling areas need to be accelerated, such as in the COVID-19 crisis. One explanation is professionals’ limitations as problem solvers, as accumulating depth of knowledge enhances one’s general problem-solving capabilities but also creates socio-cognitive fixation that hinders innovation. Recent technological changes have made it possible for non-professionals to innovate via online platforms and communities. Processes such as crowdsourcing suggest replacing professionals with crowds of non-professionals and potentially with learning algorithms.
However, the crowdsourcing process also suffers from limitations, in particular in integration. In this paper, we closely investigate these problem-solving processes and test a new process based on using technology to augment R&D professionals instead of replacing them as problem solvers. We conducted a two- years field study with R&D professionals from the Industrial Research Institute and crowds from Amazon Mechanical Turk, combining inductive qualitative methods with deductive experimental ones. We used an important real-world R&D problem of laundry water waste and found that the augmented R&D professionals’ process led to expanding the solution space exploration and generating more innovative solutions than either the R&D professionals-only or the crowds-only problem-solving processes.
Keywords: Innovation; problem solving; technology; expertise; professionalism; crowdsourcing