Managing Delegated Search Over Design Spaces

Abstract

O increasingly seek solutions to their open-ended design problems by employing a contest approach in which search over a solution space is delegated to outside agents. We study this new class of problems, which are costly to specify, pose credibility issues for the focal firm, and require finely tuned awards for meeting the firm’s needs. Through an analytical model, we examine the relationship between problem specification, award structure, and breadth of solution space searched by outside agents toward characterizing how a firm should effectively manage such open-ended design contests. Our results independently establish and offer a causal explanation for an interesting phenomenon observed in design contests—clustering of searchers in specific regions of the solution space. The analysis also yields a cautionary finding—although the breadth of search increases with number of searchers, the relationship is strongly sublinear (logarithmic). Finally, from the practical perspective of managing the delegated search process, our results offer rules of thumb on how many and what size awards should be offered, as well as the extent to which firms should undertake problem specification, contingent on the nature (open-endedness and uncertainty) of the design problem solution being delegated to outside agents.

DOI: 10.1287/mnsc.1110.1418

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Cite this paper

@article{Erat2012ManagingDS, title={Managing Delegated Search Over Design Spaces}, author={Sanjiv Erat and Vish Krishnan}, journal={Management Science}, year={2012}, volume={58}, pages={606-623} }