What Makes Them Tick? Employee Motives and Firm Innovation
Georgia Institute of Technology - Scheller College of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
Wesley M. Cohen
Duke University - Fuqua School of Business; Duke University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative
July 26, 2010
Management Science, Vol. 65, No, 12, pp. 2134-2153
Economists studying innovation and technological change have made significant progress towards understanding firms’ profit incentives as drivers of innovation. However, innovative performance in firms should also depend heavily on the pecuniary and nonpecuniary motives of the individuals actually working in research and development within firms. Using data on over 1,700 PhD scientists and engineers, we examine the relationships between individuals’ motives (e.g., desire for intellectual challenge, income, or responsibility) and their innovative performance. We find that motives matter, but different motives have very different effects: Motives regarding intellectual challenge, independence, and money have a strong positive relationship with innovative output while motives regarding job security and responsibility tend to have a negative relationship.
We also explore possible mechanisms underlying the observed relationships between motives and performance. While hours worked (“quantity of effort”) have a strong positive effect on performance, motives appear to affect innovative performance primarily via other dimensions of effort (“character of effort”). Finally, we find some evidence that the role of motives differs in upstream research versus downstream development.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 33
Keywords: innovation, motives, intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, effort, patents
JEL Classification: O3, O38 O31, O32
Date posted: July 1, 2010 ; Last revised: October 29, 2015
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