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Agency Costs and Innovation

Author

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  • Holmström, Bengt

    (Yale University)

Abstract

Stylized facts indicate that small firms are responsible for a disproportionate share of innovative research. There are many possible explanations for this facto The paper seeks to understand this phenomena as the outcome of an optimal assignment of tasks across individuals and organizations. It is shown that incentive costs associated with a given task depend on the total portfolio of tasks that an individual or an organization undertakes. Mixing, hard to measure activities (innovation) with easy to measure activities (routine) is particularly costly, since it will either lead to misallocation of attention across tasks or to misallocation of risk. Larger firms are at a comparative disadvantage in conducting highly innovative research, because of the costs associated with managing a heterogeneous set of tasks. It is further argued that optimal organizational responses to coordination and control of routine tasks will lead to bureaucratization within the firm and to financial constraints imposed by capital markets, both of which are hostile to innovation.

Suggested Citation

  • Holmström, Bengt, 1989. "Agency Costs and Innovation," Working Paper Series 214, Research Institute of Industrial Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhs:iuiwop:0214
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    File URL: http://www.ifn.se/wfiles/wp/wp214.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Milgrom, Paul R, 1988. "Employment Contracts, Influence Activities, and Efficient Organization Design," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(1), pages 42-60, February.
    2. Grossman, Sanford J & Hart, Oliver D, 1986. "The Costs and Benefits of Ownership: A Theory of Vertical and Lateral Integration," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 94(4), pages 691-719, August.
    3. Lazear, Edward P, 1989. "Pay Equality and Industrial Politics," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(3), pages 561-580, June.
    4. Holmstrom, Bengt & Milgrom, Paul, 1987. "Aggregation and Linearity in the Provision of Intertemporal Incentives," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 55(2), pages 303-328, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Innovation; agency costs; efficient allocation; routine;

    JEL classification:

    • L22 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Firm Organization and Market Structure
    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D

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