What About Those Left Behind? Understanding the Impact of Colleague Exit and Career Interdependence among Collaborative Workers

Tracy Anderson, Management, The Wharton School

Abstract: Collaboration between individuals is critical to innovation and knowledge creation. Within an organizational context, however, collaborative relationships can be subject to an abrupt end should a collaborator exit the organization. As yet, we have a limited understanding of exactly how such events impact the future knowledge creation and innovation of those who remain within the organization. The proposed study directly addresses this gap, exploring how collaboration outcomes are affected by changes in the collaboration network of scientists working within an organization, in this case due to the exit of a collaborator. It will focus upon the scientists working at a US bioscience research institute, where I have been granted access to the organizational HR and internal systems data. This data will be supplemented by publicly available information on publications, patents, education and career history. The study will clarify the types of intra-organizational collaboration networks that are most, and least, robust to the potential effects of collaborator mobility. Using the findings, practitioners should be better placed to encourage the development of intra-organizational networks that minimize the potential negative impacts of turnover on innovation, and harness any potential benefits.

Read the full working paper here (PDF).

Michelle Eckert is Marketing and Communications Coordinator for the Mack Institute, where she works to engage students, researchers, and corporate partners in opportunities for collaboration. Michelle received her B.A. in Art from Valparaiso University in 2007. Her background includes two AmeriCorps terms of service working to teach mathematics, computer literacy, and job readiness skills to out-of-school youth in Philadelphia, focusing particularly on promoting access to post-secondary education.