Creativity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship (2013-2016)

Diane Burton and the Institute for the Social Sciences at Cornell


Diane Burton and the Institute for the Social Sciences at Cornel

This project is aimed at understanding how novel ideas are created, developed, valued, and diffused, leading to ground-breaking changes in cultural, social, and economic interaction. The group seeks to lay the foundation for a new social science of creativity and innovation, enhancing scholarship and research, as well as practices and policies that foster entrepreneurship.

Critical questions include:

  • To what extent do innovation and entrepreneurship drive economic prosperity?
  • Can imagination and creativity be sparked in ways that lead to innovation and entrepreneurship?
  • What accounts for the dramatic variation in rates and types of entrepreneurship and innovation?
  • How do new firms and new industries differ in their structure, rewards, stability and other features? Do entrepreneurial ventures provide “good jobs” or “bad jobs,” and under what conditions?

We conceptualize entrepreneurship as a process by which individuals and groups generate novel ideas, sort through the choice set to identify the ideas that are most promising, present ideas to relevant stakeholders (who similarly undertake an evaluation process), mobilize resources and support, and embody their ideas in an organizational form that engages in market-based competition. Social science has much to say about each step in this process, whether through the psychology of creativity and innovation, the sociology of organizations, or the economics of innovation. These research ideas could be fruitfully extended, combined, and applied to the domain of entrepreneurship.

We seek a rigorous social scientific understanding of the processes by which creative people develop novel ideas that garner interest and support from stakeholders, that lead to new organizations and new industries, and that, in some cases, fundamentally alter economic and social orders. In short, we want to lay the foundations for a social science of entrepreneurship that can improve organizational practices and public policies intended to foster entrepreneurship as well as academic scholarship.

Initial Proposal (pdf)