Quotation Lettl, Christopher, Rost, Katja, Von Wartburg, Iwan. 2009. Why are some independent inventors 'heroes' and others 'hobbyists'? The moderating role of technological diversity and specialization. Research Policy. A Journal Devoted to Research Policy, Research Management and Planning 38 243-254.


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Abstract

Despite a substantial body of research investigating the market significance of inventions by independent inventors, relatively little attention has been devoted to understanding their technological significance. A recent study conducted by Dahlin et al. (2004) on the tennis racket industry shows that independent inventors are a heterogeneous group which includes both "heroes" who contribute substantially to technological progress and "hobbyists" who make only a marginal contribution. What is not asked - and therefore not explained - is why this distinction arises. In this paper, we focus on the type of prior technological knowledge (in terms of technological specialization and diversity) applied by independent inventors and their corporate counterparts as a factor explaining differences in technological impact. Our empirical setting is the field of medical equipment technology. We find that independent inventors are more sensitive to the negative effects of technological diversity than their corporate counterparts. Furthermore, our study reveals that technological specialization pays off more for independent inventors than for their corporate counterparts. Therefore, those independent inventors who apply low degrees of diversity and high degrees of specialization are capable of reaching the same level as or even outperforming their corporate counterparts, thus becoming "heroes". Based on our findings, we discuss implications for research and corporate practice.

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Publication's profile

Status of publication Published
Affiliation WU
Type of publication Journal article
Journal Research Policy (RP)
Citation Index SSCI
WU Journalrating 2009 A
WU-Journal-Rating new FIN-A, MAN-A, STRAT-A, VW-B, WH-A
Language English
Title Why are some independent inventors 'heroes' and others 'hobbyists'? The moderating role of technological diversity and specialization
Volume 38
Year 2009
Page from 243
Page to 254
URL http://www.wu.ac.at/entrep/downloads/publikationen/lettl_rost_von_wartburg_rp_2009.pdf

Associations

People
Lettl, Christopher (Details)
External
Rost, Katja
Von Wartburg, Iwan
Organization
Strategy, Technology and Organization IN (Details)
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