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What Makes Them Tick? Employee Motives and Firm Innovation

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  • Henry Sauermann

    ()
    (College of Management, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia 30308)

  • Wesley M. Cohen

    ()
    (Fuqua School of Business, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina 27708; and National Bureau of Economic Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts 02138)

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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.

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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.1100.1241
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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by INFORMS in its journal Management Science.

    Volume (Year): 56 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 12 (December)
    Pages: 2134-2153

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    Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:56:y:2010:i:12:p:2134-2153

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    Keywords: research and development; innovation; motivation; motives; incentives; creativity;

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    Cited by:
    1. Susanne Neckermann & Michael Gibbs & Christoph Siemroth, 2014. "A Field Experiment in Motivating Employee Ideas," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 14-045/VII, Tinbergen Institute.
    2. Nathalie Lazaric & Alain Raybaut, 2014. "Do incentive systems spur work motivation of inventors in high tech firms? A group-based perspective," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 24(1), pages 135-157, January.
    3. Joshua S. Gans & Fiona E. Murray & Scott Stern, 2013. "Contracting Over the Disclosure of Scientific Knowledge: Intellectual Property and Academic Publication," NBER Working Papers 19560, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Haeussler, Carolin & Sauermann, Henry, 2013. "Credit where credit is due? The impact of project contributions and social factors on authorship and inventorship," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(3), pages 688-703.
    5. Gibbs, Michael & Neckermann, Susanne & Siemroth, Christoph, 2014. "A Field Experiment in Motivating Employee Ideas," IZA Discussion Papers 8096, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    6. Franzoni, Chiara & Sauermann, Henry, 2014. "Crowd science: The organization of scientific research in open collaborative projects," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 43(1), pages 1-20.
    7. Sauermann, Henry & Roach, Michael, 2013. "Increasing web survey response rates in innovation research: An experimental study of static and dynamic contact design features," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 42(1), pages 273-286.
    8. Oliver Baumann & Nils Stieglitz, 2011. "Motivating Organizational Search," DRUID Working Papers 11-08, DRUID, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy/Aalborg University, Department of Business Studies.

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