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Joseph Monroe successfully defends his doctoral dissertation

Dr. Monroe’s research, titled "The Roots of Invention: Empirical Studies on Knowledge Recombination," explores how knowledge recombination mechanisms shape technological invention outcomes. His research papers demonstrate that inventors' personality traits, historical knowledge use, and how knowledge structures significantly influence invention rates and innovation management.

What problem does this research address? 

This research addresses the complex process of technological invention, where inventors generate new ideas by combining existing knowledge in new ways.

Observational data and statistical analysis

Dr. Monroe's approach to studying knowledge recombination in invention involves analyzing large-scale observational data, primarily personality tests and patent records. This data provides insights into the technological descriptions, classifications, and historical evolution of inventions. The methodology includes statistical analysis of patent data, surveys of inventors including personality tests, and examination of how these factors interact within different technological domains and trajectories. The research examines knowledge recombination at individual, organizational, trajectory, and domain levels of analysis.

Key research findings

  • Inventors' personality traits significantly affect their invention output, influenced by their organizational knowledge context.
  • The interplay between individual cognitive traits and the structure of knowledge environments is critical in the invention process.
  • Historical knowledge use in developing new inventions is a key factor in technological advancement.
  • Contrary to previous beliefs, invention rates increase when knowledge in a domain becomes more interdependent and modularity decreases.


This research suggests that understanding knowledge recombination is crucial for effective innovation management. It highlights the need for further research into how different inventors interact with evolving knowledge landscapes. Future research could explore more deeply the importance of examining historical versions of a technology in generating high-impact inventions. Additionally, reducing modularity (increasing interdependence) may create short-term difficulties in a technological domain, but overall enables new inventions to be generated in subsequent generations of technology.

Meet the supervision committee

  • Mattia Bianchi: Professor, Department of Entrepreneurship Innovation and Technology, Stockholm School of Economics.
  • Holmer Kok: Assistant Professor, Department of Entrepreneurship Innovation and Technology, Stockholm School of Economics.
  • Philip Kappen: Associate Professor, Department of Industrial Economics and Management, KTH Royal Institute of Technology.
House of Innovation Innovation Dissertation Thesis