Read the working paper
INSEAD Working Paper 2014/16/TOM revised version of 2013/25/TOM
Despite being rare, gurus make disproportionately influential contributions to their fields. Hence understanding their emergence is critical. Yet our knowledge about the phenomenon is limited. This paper studies the role of collaboration in the emergence of gurus among designers—namely, how a focal designer’s chances of becoming a design guru are affected by collaborating with design gurus. We find that collaborating with a guru makes emergence much more likely than does collaborating with other nongurus, or not collaborating at all. We establish two conduits for this effect of guru collaboration: transfer of knowledge and sharing of attention. First, we present evidence that guru collaborations facilitate the transfer of (tacit) knowledge and thus increase the likelihood of a guru’s emergence. Second, we document a novel social aspect of collaborating with a guru: doing so helps the focal designer emerge as a guru by profiting from the attention paid by others to that guru. We test our predictions via event history analysis performed on a large longitudinal data set consisting of all designers who were granted a design patent in the United States from 1975 through 2005.