by: John Caddell

In the Wall Street Journal, columnist David Wessel highlights the role prizes have played, and continue to play, in fostering innovation.

From the Longitude Prize memorialized in Dava Sobel's book to the Ansari X Prize, awarded in 2004 to SpaceShipOne for reaching space first as a private venture, R&D contests continue to provide a valuable supplement to corporate, government and university research.

Here's the most interesting point in the article. According to a study by Harvard professor Karim Lakhani of solutions contributed to scientific research bazaar InnoCentive, "outsiders," that is, people whose expertise was remote from the problem domain, were more likely to solve a problem than domain experts.

Apparently their distance and beginner's mindset (should we say foolishness?) aided their ability to solve the problem, while experts struggled to set aside their existing knowledge to find a truly new answer.

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