Knowledge Recombination; Organization Design; Teams; Diversity; Innovation; Human Capital;
How should firms organize their pool of inventive human capital for firm-level innovation? While access to diverse knowledge may aid knowledge recombination, which can facilitate innovation, prior literature has focused primarily on one way of achieving that: diversity of inventor-held knowledge within a given knowledge production team (“within-team knowledge diversity”).The authors introduce the concept of “across-team knowledge diversity,” which captures the distribution of inventor knowledge diversity across production teams, an overlooked dimension of a firm’s internal organization design. They study two contrasting forms of organizing the firm-level knowledge diversity environment in which a firm’s inventors are situated: “diffuse” (high within-team diversity and low across-team diversity) versus “concentrated” (low within-team diversity and high across-team diversity).Using panel data on new biotechnology ventures founded over a 21-year period and followed annually from inception, the authors find that concentrated structures are associated with higher firm-level innovation quality, and with more equal contributions from their teams (and the opposite for diffuse structures). The empirical tests of the operative mechanisms point to the importance of within-team coordination costs in diffuse structures and across-team knowledge flows in concentrated knowledge structures. The authors end with a discussion of implications for future research on organizing for innovation.