What makes them tick? Employee motives and firm innovation

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2010-12-01

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Abstract

Economists studying innovation and technological change have made significant progress toward understanding firms' profit incentives as drivers of innovation. However, innovative performance in firms should also depend heavily on the pecuniary and nonpecuniary motives of the employees actually working in research and development. Using data on more than 1,700 Ph.D. scientists and engineers, we examine the relationships between individuals' motives (e.g., desire for intellectual challenge, income, or responsibility) and their innovative performance. We find that motives matter, but different motives have very different effects: Motives regarding intellectual challenge, independence, and money have a strong positive relationship with innovative output, whereas motives regarding job security and responsibility tend to have a negative relationship. We also explore possible mechanisms underlying the observed relationships between motives and performance. Although hours worked (quantity of effort) have a strong positive effect on performance, motives appear to affect innovative performance primarily via other dimensions of effort (character of effort). Finally, we find some evidence that the role of motives differs in upstream research versus downstream development. © 2010 INFORMS.

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10.1287/mnsc.1100.1241

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Sauermann, H, and WM Cohen (2010). What makes them tick? Employee motives and firm innovation. Management Science, 56(12). pp. 2134–2153. 10.1287/mnsc.1100.1241 Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/4430.

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Cohen

Wesley M. Cohen

Snow Family Distinguished Professor

Wesley M. Cohen (Ph.D., Economics, Yale University, 1981) is Professor of Economics and Management and the Frederick C. Joerg Distinguished Professor of Business Administration in the Fuqua School of Business, Duke University. He also holds secondary appointments in Duke’s Department of Economics and School of Law, is a Research Associate of the National Bureau of Economic Research, and serves as the Faculty Director of the Fuqua School’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Before coming to Duke in 2002, Professor Cohen taught at Carnegie Mellon University for 20 years, after having spent a year as Postdoctoral Fellow in Industrial Organization at the Harvard Business School.

With a research focus on the economics of technological change and R&D, Professor Cohen has examined the determinants of innovative activity and performance, considering the roles of firm size, market structure, firm learning, knowledge flows, university research and the means that firms use to protect their intellectual property, with a particular focus on patents. Most recently, he has conducted research on the “division of innovative labor,” investigating the ties across firms, and between firms other institutions that influence innovative performance.

He has published widely in scholarly journals, including the American Economic Review, the Economic Journal, Administrative Science Quarterly, Management Science, the Review of Economics and Statistics, Science, and the Strategic Management Journal, and has received funding from the National Science Foundation, the Kauffman Foundation, the Sloan Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Ford Foundation, among others. He served for five years as a Main Editor for Research Policy and served on the National Academies’ Committee on Intellectual Property Rights in the Knowledge-Based Economy, the National Academies' Panel on Research and Development Statistics at the National Science Foundation, and, most recently, the National Academies’ Committee on the Management of University Intellectual Property. He was named to the World Economic Forum’s “Global Innovation 100” in 2008. He has taught courses on the economics of technological change, industrial organization economics, policy analysis, organizational behavior, corporate strategy, entrepreneurship, technology strategy and the management of intellectual capital. He has also consulted on legal issues bearing on intellectual property.


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