Beyond thinking up a great new idea, innovation also requires what’s called “slack” time—a chance to work out the details.
“Slack time does something more than what we thought,” says Avi Goldfarb, professor of marketing at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. “You need a creative idea for sure, but you also need to tell people about it and you need to put some effort into raising money. Slack time may give you the opportunity to do those mundane, execution-oriented tasks.”
Goldfarb and colleagues from the Rotman School and the MIT Sloan School of Management examined data from the crowdfunding site Kickstarter over a five-year period to track the ebb and flow of new projects going online for donations during and outside US college breaks.
They found a 49 percent increase in projects posted in college towns during vacation times. There were also correlations between the types of projects and the types of schools: more artistic projects were posted when arts schools went on breaks, while more tech projects got posted during breaks for top engineering schools.
However, projects tended to be posted during the first part of the breaks, not towards the end, suggesting that the front-end development of the project had already been completed and what was left were other tasks.
Underscoring this, the researchers found an even greater spike in design and technology projects posted during school breaks after Kickstarter made requirements for the documentation of a project’s viability more stringent in 2012.
“If it’s ideation that’s happening, then these projects should be posted at the end of breaks so that people have time to put things together and they should be newer projects,” says Goldfarb. “Our results rejected all of those possibilities very strongly.”
The National Bureau of Economic Research has published the working paper online.