Technology, Information and the Decentralization of the Firm
67 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2006
Date Written: April 13, 2006
This paper develops a framework to analyze the relationship between the diffusion of new technologies and the decentralization decisions of firms. Centralized control relies on the information of the principal, which we equate with publicly available information. Decentralized control, on the other hand, delegates authority to a manager with superior information. However, the manager can use her informational advantage to make choices that are not in the best interest of the principal. As the available public information about the specific technology increases, the trade-off shifts in favor of centralization. We show that firms closer to the technological frontier, firms in more heterogeneous environments and younger firms are more likely to choose decentralization. Using three datasets of French and British firms in the 1990s, we report robust correlations consistent with these predictions.
Keywords: decentralization, heterogeneity, learning, the theory of the firm
JEL Classification: O31, O32, O33, F23
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