The extroverted firm: How external information practices affect innovation and productivity

Abstract

We gather detailed data on organizational practices and information technology (IT) use at 253 firms to examine the hypothesis that external focus—the ability of a firm to detect and therefore respond to changes in its external operating environment—increases returns to IT, especially when combined with decentralized decision making. First, using survey-based measures, we find that external focus is correlated with both organizational decentralization, and IT investment. Second, we find that a cluster of practices including external focus, decentralization, and IT is associated with improved product innovation capabilities. Third, we develop and test a three-way complementarities model that indicates that the combination of external focus, decentralization, and IT is associated with significantly higher productivity in our sample. We also introduce a new set of instrumental variables representing barriers to IT-related organizational change and find that our results are robust when we account for the potential endogeneity of organizational investments. Our results may help explain why firms that operate in information-rich environments such as high-technology clusters or areas with high worker mobility have experienced especially high returns to IT investment and suggest a set of practices that some managers may be able to use to increase their returns from IT investments.

Publication
Management Science
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