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The Whole Is More Than the Sum of Its Parts - Or Is It? A Review of the Empirical Literature on Complementarities in Organizations

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  • Ennen, Edgar
  • Richter, Ansgar

Abstract

The concept of complementarity and its role in the design of organizations has enjoyed increasing attention over the past twenty years. We provide a systematic review of the empirical studies on complementarities in leading journals in management, economics and related disciplines that considers the nature of the factors among which complementarities are found to exist, and the effects of complementarities in organizations. Our findings suggest that complementarities result from the skilful matching of heterogeneous resources which generate positive returns above and beyond the effect of each resource generated on its own. In contrast, the empirical evidence on complementarities between individual organizational and HR practices in firms provides mixed conclusions. We show that complementarities are likely to materialize in complex systems of multiple design elements. Therefore, future research should aim at uncovering complementary effects among multiple elements that capture organizational systems better than a few selected elements only do.

Suggested Citation

  • Ennen, Edgar & Richter, Ansgar, 2009. "The Whole Is More Than the Sum of Its Parts - Or Is It? A Review of the Empirical Literature on Complementarities in Organizations," MPRA Paper 15666, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:15666
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    1. Simone N. Tuor Sartore & Uschi Backes-Gellner, 2012. "Another Effect of Group Diversity: Educational Composition and Workers’ Pay," Economics of Education Working Paper Series 0078, University of Zurich, Department of Business Administration (IBW).
    2. Uschi Backes-Gellner & Stephan Veen, 2013. "Positive Effects of Ageing and Age-Diversity in Innovative Companies - Large Scale Evidence on Company Productivity," Economics of Education Working Paper Series 0093, University of Zurich, Department of Business Administration (IBW).
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    4. Tom Broekel & Matthias Brachert, 2015. "The structure and evolution of inter-sectoral technological complementarity in R&D in Germany from 1990 to 2011," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 25(4), pages 755-785, September.
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    7. Hervas-Oliver, Jose-Luis & Sempere-Ripoll, Francisca, 2015. "Disentangling the influence of technological process and product innovations," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 109-118.
    8. repec:spr:scient:v:93:y:2012:i:3:d:10.1007_s11192-012-0729-2 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Caroline Mothe & Uyen T. Nguyen-Thi & Phu Nguyen-Van, 2015. "Assessing complementarity in organizational innovations for technological innovation: the role of knowledge management practices," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 47(29), pages 3040-3058, June.
    10. Gómez, Jaime & Vargas, Pilar, 2012. "Intangible resources and technology adoption in manufacturing firms," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(9), pages 1607-1619.
    11. Zand, Fardad & Van Beers, Cees & Van Leeuwen, George, 2011. "Information technology, organizational change and firm productivity: A panel study of complementarity effects and clustering patterns in Manufacturing and Services," MPRA Paper 46469, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Gerard Ballot & Fathi Fakhfakh & Fabrice Gallia & Ammon Salter, 2011. "The Fateful Triangle Complementarities between product, process and organizational innovation in the UK and France," TEPP Working Paper 2011-05, TEPP.
    13. Ben-Ner, Avner & Kong, Fanmin & Lluis, Stéphanie, 2012. "Uncertainty, task environment, and organization design: An empirical investigation," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 82(1), pages 281-313.
    14. Caroline Mothe & Uyen T. Nguyen-Thi & Phu Nguyen-Van, 2014. "Are organizational innovation practices complements or substitutes for technological innovation performance?," Working Papers of BETA 2014-12, Bureau d'Economie Théorique et Appliquée, UDS, Strasbourg.
    15. Landry, Réjean & Saïhi, Malek & Amara, Nabil & Ouimet, Mathieu, 2010. "Evidence on how academics manage their portfolio of knowledge transfer activities," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 39(10), pages 1387-1403, December.
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    17. Jose-Luis Hervas-Oliver & Francisca Ripoll-Sempere & Carles Boronat Moll, 2016. "Does management innovation pay-off in SMEs? Empirical evidence for Spanish SMEs," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 47(2), pages 507-533, August.
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    20. Caroline Mothe & Thu Nguyen Nguyen Thi & Phu Nguyen-Van, 2015. "Complementarities in organizational innovation practices: evidence from French industrial firms Complementarities in organizational innovation practices: evidence from French industrial firms," Post-Print hal-01293802, HAL.
    21. repec:ipg:wpaper:2014-488 is not listed on IDEAS
    22. Hervas-Oliver,Jose-Luis & Sempere-Ripoll,Francisca, 2014. "Agglomerations and firm performance: how does it work, who benefits and how much?," INGENIO (CSIC-UPV) Working Paper Series 201411, INGENIO (CSIC-UPV), revised 01 Dec 2014.
    23. Kauppi, Katri & Longoni, Annachiara & Caniato, Federico & Kuula, Markku, 2016. "Managing country disruption risks and improving operational performance: risk management along integrated supply chains," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 182(C), pages 484-495.
    24. Jérôme Danguy, 2014. "Who collaborates with whom: the role of technological distance in international innovation," iCite Working Papers 2014-010, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.

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    Keywords

    Complementarities; Organizational Design;

    JEL classification:

    • L2 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior

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