Organizing Knowledge Production Teams within Firms for Innovation
Strategy Science, Forthcoming
34 Pages Posted: 12 Dec 2019
Date Written: December 11, 2019
How should firms organize their pool of inventive human capital for firm-level innovation? While access to diverse knowledge may aid knowledge recombination, which can facilitate innovation, prior literature has focused primarily on one way of achieving that: diversity of inventor-held knowledge within a given knowledge production team (“within-team knowledge diversity”). We introduce the concept of “across-team knowledge diversity,” which captures the distribution of inventor knowledge diversity across production teams, an overlooked dimension of a firm’s internal organization design. We study two contrasting forms of organizing the firm-level knowledge diversity environment in which a firm’s inventors are situated: “diffuse” (high within-team diversity and low across-team diversity) versus “concentrated” (low within-team diversity and high across-team diversity). Using panel data on new biotechnology ventures founded over a 21-year period and followed annually from inception, we find that concentrated structures are associated with higher firm-level innovation quality, and with more equal contributions from their teams (and the opposite for diffuse structures). Our empirical tests of the operative mechanisms point to the importance of within-team coordination costs in diffuse structures and across-team knowledge flows in concentrated knowledge structures. We end with a discussion of implications for future research on organizing for innovation.
Keywords: knowledge recombination, organization design, teams, diversity, innovation, human capital
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