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The renaissance of the "renaissance man"? : specialists vs. generalists in teams of inventors

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  • Eduardo Melero

    ()

  • Neus Palomeras

    ()

Abstract

Is there a role for the multifaceted Renaissance Man in modern team-intensive innovation activities? This paper argues that researchers with broad knowledge, also known as generalists, make an especially valuable contribution to innovation teams. Given the re-combinative nature of technological progress, innovation results depend crucially on the skilful matching of different pieces of knowledge. The presence of generalists in innovation teams makes the knowledge recombination process more effective, even if this comes at the cost of reduced knowledge depth. Moreover, typical barriers in team processes become less acute with the presence of generalists. We analyze the role of generalists versus specialists in innovation teams by tracking the trajectories of inventors in the electrical and electronics industry through their patenting activity. Our findings suggest that innovation teams with the contribution of generalists outperform those that rely on a diverse set of specialists

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Paper provided by Universidad Carlos III, Instituto sobre Desarrollo Empresarial "Carmen Vidal Ballester" in its series Business Economics Working Papers with number id-12-01.

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Date of creation: Jan 2012
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Handle: RePEc:cte:idrepe:id-12-01

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  1. Paola Giuri & Matteo Ploner & Francesco Rullani & Salvatore Torrisi, 2004. "Skills, Division of Labor and Performance in Collective Inventions. Evidence from the Open Source Software," LEM Papers Series, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy 2004/19, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
  2. Paul Gompers & Anna Kovner & Josh Lerner, 2009. "Specialization and Success: Evidence from Venture Capital," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 18(3), pages 817-844, 09.
  3. Manuel Trajtenberg & Rebecca Henderson & Adam Jaffe, 1997. "University Versus Corporate Patents: A Window On The Basicness Of Invention," Economics of Innovation and New Technology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 5(1), pages 19-50.
  4. Melamed, Ran & Shiff, Gil & Trajtenberg, Manuel, 2006. "The 'Names Game': Harnessing Inventors Patent Data for Economic Research," CEPR Discussion Papers, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers 5833, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
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