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