Knowledge diversity and coordination: The effect of intrafirm inventor task networks on absorption speed

Solon Moreira, Arjan Markus, Keld Laursen (Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Research Summary:We combine the absorptive capacityand social network theory approaches to predict how intra-firm“whole”network characteristics affect the firm’sspeedof absorption of external knowledge to produce inventions.We start from the widely accepted view that distant,externally-developed knowledge is difficult to absorb intothe focal firm’s own knowledge production. We suggestthat high levels of intrafirm inventor task network diversityand task network density are essential for a diversity ofknowledge inputs and coordinated actions regarding knowl-edge transfer, which in turn, reduces problems related tothe absorption of knowledge—especially in the case ofknowledge that is distant from the focal firm. The results ofan event history study of 113 pharmaceutical firms thatengaged in technology in-licensing from 1986 to 2003 pro-vide general support for our hypotheses.Managerial Summary:Firms keen to keep up with anuncertain and ever-changing industry environment, canbenefit from the speedy introduction of inventions. Weexamine how firms absorb licensed-in technologies tonurture the rapid development of own related inventions.We show that a firm’s absorption speed depends on thecharacteristics of the internal collaboration networksamong the firm’s inventor employees. More specifically,technologically diverse and well-connected inventor net-works improve the firm’s ability to absorb external tech-nologies quickly. This applies especially to externallyacquired technologies that are unfamiliar to the firm.Depending on the distance of the acquired technologyfrom the focal firm combined with speed-inducing inven-tor network characteristics, our estimates suggest that firms can reduce the time needed for absorption by severalmonths.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2517-2546
Number of pages30
JournalStrategic Management Journal
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018


  • absorption speed
  • absorptive capacity
  • innovation
  • intrafirm inventor networks
  • licensing

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