Management Science, Vol. 65, No, 12, pp. 2134-2153
33 Pages Posted: 1 Jul 2010 Last revised: 29 Oct 2015
Date Written: July 26, 2010
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.
Keywords: innovation, motives, intrinsic motivation, extrinsic motivation, effort, patents
JEL Classification: O3, O38 O31, O32
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation
Sauermann, Henry and Cohen, Wesley M., What Makes Them Tick? Employee Motives and Firm Innovation (July 26, 2010). Management Science, Vol. 65, No, 12, pp. 2134-2153. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1632629
By Harvey James