The Extroverted Firm: How External Information Practices Affect Innovation and Productivity
Management Science, 58(5), 2012, 843-859. 2012
Posted: 23 Nov 2008 Last revised: 19 Jan 2014
Date Written: March 1, 2011
We gather detailed data on organizational practices and IT use at 253 firms to examine the hypothesis that external focus – the ability of a firm to detect and therefore respond to changes in its external operating environment – increases returns to information technology, especially when combined with decentralized decision-making. First, using survey-based measures, we find that external focus is highly correlated with both organizational decentralization and IT investment. Second, we find that a cluster of practices including external focus, decentralization and IT is associated with improved product innovation capabilities. Third, we develop and test a 3-way complementarities model that indicates that the combination of external focus, decentralization and IT is associated with significantly higher productivity in our sample. In contrast, firms that have only one or two of these organizational practices in place, instead of all three, are not more productive than firms with none of them. We also introduce a new set of instrumental variables representing barriers to IT-related organizational change and find that our results are robust when we account for the potential endogeneity of organizational investments. Our results may help explain why firms that operate in information-rich environments such as high-technology clusters or areas with high worker mobility have experienced especially high returns to IT investment and suggest a set of practices that some managers may be able to use to increase their returns from IT investments.
Keywords: : Information Technology, Productivity, Organizational Practices, External Focus, Complementarities, High Performance Work Practices, Product Development, High-Tech Clusters
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