What Makes Them Tick? Employee Motives and Firm Innovation

52 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2008 Last revised: 29 Oct 2015

See all articles by Henry Sauermann

Henry Sauermann

ESMT European School of Management and Technology

Wesley M. Cohen

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business; Duke University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative

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Date Written: October 2008

Abstract

We examine the impact of individual-level motives upon innovative effort and performance in firms. Drawing from economics and social psychology, we develop a model of the impact of individuals' motives and incentives upon their innovative effort and performance. Using data on over 11,000 industrial scientists and engineers (SESTAT 2003), we find that individuals' motives have significant effects upon innovative effort and performance. These effects vary significantly, however, by the particular kind of motive (e.g., desire for intellectual challenge vs. pay). We also find that intrinsic and extrinsic motives affect innovative performance even when controlling for effort, suggesting that motives affect not only the level of individual effort, but also its quality. Overall, intrinsic motives, particularly the desire for intellectual challenge, appear to benefit innovation more than extrinsic motives such as pay.

Suggested Citation

Sauermann, Henry and Cohen, Wesley M., What Makes Them Tick? Employee Motives and Firm Innovation (October 2008). NBER Working Paper No. w14443, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1289677

Henry Sauermann

ESMT European School of Management and Technology ( email )

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Wesley M. Cohen (Contact Author)

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business ( email )

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