Integrating problem solvers from analogous markets in new product ideation
Who provides better inputs to new product ideation tasks: problem solvers with expertise in the area for which new products are to be developed, or problem solvers from “analogous markets” that are distant but share an analogous problem or need? Conventional wisdom appears to suggest that target market expertise is indispensable, which is why most managers searching for new ideas tend to stay within their own market context even when they do search outside their firms’ boundaries. However, in a unique symmetric experiment that isolates the effect of market origin, we find evidence for the opposite: Although solutions provided by problem solvers from analogous markets show lower potential for immediate use, they demonstrate substantially higher levels of novelty. The latter is essential when companies search for radically new solutions that might be a source of revenue growth and long-term competitiveness. These findings have important implications for new product development, as they support the idea of systematically searching across firm-external sources of innovation that were formerly “out of scope” for most managers.