Long-run patterns in the discovery of the adjacent possible

Forskningsoutput: Working paper/PreprintPreprint (i preprint-arkiv)


This study analyses long-run patterns of new product introductions in Sweden, 1908-2016. A theoretical framework is formulated that links notions of exploration and exploitation to the notion of innovation as a search process of recombination across knowledge types to discover the set of the adjacent possible innovations. The framework makes predictions about the rate of diversification of product portfolios, the rate of innovation, and the distribution of innovations across organizations. The results suggest on the one hand that the rate of innovation is approximately linear rather than super-linear. This explains advantages of incumbent firms, but excludes the emergence of "winner takes all" distributions. The results also suggest that the rate of development of new types of products follows "Heaps' law", where the share of new product types within organizations declines over time. Instead, old firms become increasingly focused on a core set of products and knowledge, as they age. Together these results suggest that declining product diversity might be one explanation why large firms have seen their overall innovation rates decline.
StatusSubmitted - 2022

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ)

  • Ekonomi och näringsliv


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