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Motivating Organizational Search

  • Oliver Baumann
  • Nils Stieglitz

This paper investigates the value of high-powered incentives for motivating search for novelty in business organizations. While organizational search critically depends on the individual efforts of employees, motivating search effort is challenged by problems of unobservable behavior and the misalignment of individual and organizational interests. Prior work on organizational design thus suggests that stronger incentives can overcome these problems and make organizations more innovative. To address this conjecture, we develop a computational model of organizational search that rests on two opposing effects of high-powered incentives: On the one hand, they promote higher effort by increasing the potential rewards from search; on the other hand, they increase the competition among ideas, as the ability of an organization to implement and remunerate good ideas is limited by its resource base. Our results indicate that low-powered incentives are effective in generating a sufficient stream of incremental innovations, but that they also result in a shortage of more radical innovations. Stronger incentives, in contrast, do not systematically foster radical innovations either, but instead create a costly oversupply of good ideas. Nonetheless, higher-powered incentives can still be effective in small firms and if strong persistence is required to develop a new idea. Based on the analysis of our model, we develop a set of propositions that appear to be consistent with extant evidence and point to new avenues for empirical research.

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Paper provided by DRUID, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy/Aalborg University, Department of Business Studies in its series DRUID Working Papers with number 11-08.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Handle: RePEc:aal:abbswp:11-08
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