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Worker problem-solving and the nature of the firm: new theory, new evidence

Author

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  • Dorman, Peter
  • Nolte, Heike

Abstract

This paper proposes a different theory of the firm and demonstrates how it can be employed to yield hypotheses about differences in innovation and human resource strategy according to the shareholder/stakeholder and liberal/coordinated market dichotomies. The theory assumes that feasible production and demand sets are nonconvex due to interaction among activities; thus firms exist to permit the identification and exploitation of profit opportunities through coordinated action. This implies that firms face a nonconvex profit landscape comparable to the fitness landscapes invoked in evolutionary biology. Given the complexity of these landscapes and the uncertainty of the location of profit hills, there is a tradeoff between exploiting existing or adjacent hills and prospecting for more distant ones: the first minimizes risk, the second maximizes potential profit. A further assumption is then introduced, that shareholder firms seek to maximizes the present value of expected future profit streams, while stakeholder firms maximize the likelihood of achieving profitability over a given time horizon. Combining these theoretical priors, we characterize the likely innovation, organizational and human resource characteristics of the two types of firms and the effects exerted by their external environment, as described in the Varieties of Capitalism literature. These theoretical predictions are confirmed in a set of case studies of a stakeholder firm in liberal and coordinated environments and a shareholder firm in a coordinated environment. This is seen through differences in the role of worker problem-solving, which brings together innovation and learning, organizational structure and human resource strategy.

Suggested Citation

  • Dorman, Peter & Nolte, Heike, 2015. "Worker problem-solving and the nature of the firm: new theory, new evidence," MPRA Paper 65981, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:65981
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    File URL: https://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/65981/1/MPRA_paper_65981.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Horst, Ulrich & Scheinkman, Jose A., 2006. "Equilibria in systems of social interactions," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 130(1), pages 44-77, September.
    2. Edward L. Glaeser & Jose Scheinkman, 2000. "Non-Market Interactions," NBER Working Papers 8053, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Papandreou, Andreas A., 2003. "Externality, Convexity And Institutions," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 19(02), pages 281-309, October.
    4. Arne L. Kalleberg, 2001. "Organizing Flexibility: The Flexible Firm in a New Century," British Journal of Industrial Relations, London School of Economics, vol. 39(4), pages 479-504, December.
    5. William A. Brock & Steven N. Durlauf, 2001. "Discrete Choice with Social Interactions," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 68(2), pages 235-260.
    6. Gerard J. van den Berg, 2003. "Multiple Equilibria and Minimum Wages in Labor Markets with Informational Frictions and Heterogeneous Production Technologies," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 44(4), pages 1337-1357, November.
    7. Hall, Peter A. & Gingerich, Daniel W., 2009. "Varieties of Capitalism and Institutional Complementarities in the Political Economy: An Empirical Analysis," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 39(03), pages 449-482, July.
    8. Richard B. Freeman, 2000. "Single Peaked Vs. Diversified Capitalism: The Relation Between Economic Institutions and Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 7556, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    More about this item

    Keywords

    theory of the firm; profit; nonconvexity; varieties of capitalism; innovation; strategy; worker participation;

    JEL classification:

    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights
    • D89 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Other
    • J53 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Labor-Management Relations, Trade Unions, and Collective Bargaining - - - Labor-Management Relations; Industrial Jurisprudence
    • L21 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Business Objectives of the Firm
    • M11 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - Production Management
    • M16 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - International Business Administration
    • O32 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Management of Technological Innovation and R&D
    • P11 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Planning, Coordination, and Reform
    • P51 - Economic Systems - - Comparative Economic Systems - - - Comparative Analysis of Economic Systems

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