I don’t know how I missed this before, but there’s a really interesting article from 2006 up at the Harvard Business School “Working Knowledge” site. It details some of Karim Lakhani‘s results from a paper called ‘The Value of Openness in Scientific Problem Solving‘. The paper itself is actual detailed research on different methods of scientific problem solving that is really worth a read for anyone in the Open Science movement. They went looking to see if “Broadcast Search” (i.e. telling the world what problem you are working on) is an effective means of problem solving. My favorite part of the paper:
Our most counter-intuitive finding was the positive and significant impact of the self-assessed distance between the problem and the solverâ€™s field of expertise on the probability of creating a winning solution. This finding implies that the farther the solvers assessed the problem as being from their own field of expertise, the more likely they were to create a winning submission. We reason that the significance of this effect may be due to the ability of â€œoutsidersâ€ from relatively distant fields to see problems with fresh eyes and apply solutions that are novel to the problem domain but well known and understood by them.