Sabotage and Self-promotion: How Strategic Behaviors Undermine Idea Selection

Christoph Riedl, Tom Grad, Christopher Lettl

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperResearchpeer-review


Generating and selecting ideas are fundamental tasks for most organizations. Thus designing and managing these processes and the associated challenges is vital. We study how idea generators employ two forms of strategic behavior?sabotage and self-promotion?to gain personal advantages during idea evaluation. Based on predictions from a theoretical model we empirically investigate the patterns of how individuals of heterogeneous ability engage in different strategic behaviors and how this affects the organization’s ability to select the best ideas. Using field data on 38 million peer evaluations of more than 150,000 ideas across 75,000 individuals, we find that the use of strategic behaviors differs significantly depending on the ability of idea generators. While self-promotion is used heavily by all individuals, sabotage is committed by high-ability individuals who target other high-ability individuals. We investigate the important role of incentives and costs for the emergence of strategic behaviors and rule out alternative explanations using three natural experiments. Looking at the aggregate outcomes of these micro-patterns we find evidence that strategic behavior systematically threatens the ability of organizations to detect the most promising ideas. Our findings have broad im- plications for the literature on organizing innovation processes and especially the design of incentives as we uncover important spillovers via the usually hidden aspect of strategic behaviors.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2021
Number of pages36
Publication statusPublished - 2021
EventDRUID21 Conference - Copenhagen Business School, Frederiksberg, Denmark
Duration: 18 Oct 202120 Oct 2021
Conference number: 42


ConferenceDRUID21 Conference
LocationCopenhagen Business School
Internet address

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