This study drew from qualitative research methods to obtain detailed data and explore the complexity of social processes. Such methods, considered inductive as opposed to deductive, help to characterize communities in a comprehensive and complex fashion and enable researchers to capture subtleties that may not be measurable via other techniques.1
A purposeful sampling strategy was used to select 60 successful US innovators identified by the steering committee and project team. The participants were interviewed by members of the project research team in open-ended conversations (by phone, video, or in person) that typically lasted between 30 minutes and two hours.
Interview questions were developed as a result of discussions between the project team and steering committee and were revised based on initial pilot interview results and feedback from the steering committee. The resulting 10–12 questions were adapted as necessary (using information from public sources about participants) to elicit more meaningful data. The interviews were designed to elicit narratives of personal experiences and perspectives on success in innovating and on educating to innovate.
The interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and confirmed with the interviewees for accuracy. Use of a qualitative data analysis program made it possible to identify themes that were common among the responses and significant to the participants. The researchers then studied and analyzed thematic patterns and interconnections among them.
The initial findings of the study were provided to the workshop participants as background information for the breakout sessions.
1 For more information about qualitative research, the following resources are suggested: Taylor, Steven, and Robert Bogdan (1998), Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods: A Guidebook and Resource, Chapter 3 (New York: Wiley); Seidman, Irving (2006), Interviewing as Qualitative Research, chapters 6–7 (New York: Teachers College Press).
Demographic information on the 60 innovators who participated in the interviews (from about 150 invitations) was obtained from public sources. Of the 60, 49 (81.7 percent) were male and 11 (18.3 percent) were female.
The interviewees were concentrated in different areas of experience and work. Figure A-1 shows the percentages of participants with experience in various sectors—academic, small business, large business, arts, federal—at some point in their career. Most (61.7 percent) had experience working in a small business.
FIGURE A-1 Areas of experience across entire career (percent). Most of the interviewees have experiences in multiple areas.