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


  • Melero, Eduardo
  • Palomeras, Neus


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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  • Melero, Eduardo & Palomeras, Neus, 2012. "The renaissance of the "renaissance man"? : specialists vs. generalists in teams of inventors," INDEM - Working Paper Business Economic Series id-12-01, Instituto para el Desarrollo Empresarial (INDEM).
  • Handle: RePEc:cte:idrepe:id-12-01

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Paul Gompers & Anna Kovner & Josh Lerner, 2009. "Specialization and Success: Evidence from Venture Capital," Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 18(3), pages 817-844, September.
    2. Manuel Trajtenberg & Gil Shiff & Ran Melamed, 2009. "The "Names Game": Harnessing Inventors, Patent Data for Economic Research," Annals of Economics and Statistics, GENES, issue 93-94, pages 67-77.
    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. 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 2004/19, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
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    Cited by:

    1. Zwick, Thomas & Frosch, Katharina & Hoisl, Karin & Harhoff, Dietmar, 2017. "The power of individual-level drivers of inventive performance," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 46(1), pages 121-137.

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