March 11, 2022

Internal Network Structure as a Knowledge Protection Mechanism

02:00 PM - 03:00 PM

SB1 5200 (Lyman Porter Colloquia Room)

  • Host(s): Assistant Professor Luke Rhee
  • Speaker(s): Brian Silverman, Professor of Strategic Management
  • University: University of Toronto, Smeal College of Business
How can firms protect new technological knowledge, and for how long? Although a considerable body of strategy research has explored mechanisms that support knowledge appropriation, this has typically focused on exogenous institutional factors such as the effectiveness of patent and contract enforcement, or on the characteristics of the technology itself. In this paper we call attention to a potential knowledge-protection mechanism that has received scant attention: a highly connected (or cohesive) intrafirm inventor network structure. Drawing on social network theory, we propose that organizations whose inventor networks are more connected enjoy greater appropriation through faster follow-on innovation relative to their rivals. Using patent data on nearly 1,400 large corporations over 33 years, we find evidence consistent with our hypotheses. We discuss implications for future research.