Work Context Specialization, Individual Experience Diversity and Corporate Venturing in a Large and Established Firm

Xu Han, The College of New Jersey

Abstract: Common wisdom holds that the high degree of specialization among individuals and work groups in large and mature firms enhances operational efficiency but stifles individuals’ entrepreneurial initiatives. Yet it remains unclear how individuals could navigate in such work contexts to develop their own entrepreneurial initiatives. Drawing on theories of entrepreneurship and innovation in large and mature organizations, I suggest that one strategy for individuals is to accumulate diverse intra-firm experiences, which would allow them to overcome the constraints for entrepreneurship in their work contexts or even leverage their work contexts for entrepreneurial activities. Using unique data from a large and established firm in the home appliance industry, I find that while working at more specialized work groups dampens individuals’ chance of engaging in corporate venturing activities, the diversity of individuals’ own intra-firm experiences enhances the chance. Moreover, I find that the enhancing effect of individuals’ intra-firm experience diversity becomes stronger as the degree of specialization in individuals’ work groups increases. I suggest that this positive moderating effect of contextual specialization reflects its complementarity with individual experience diversity in shaping individuals’ capacity for orchestrating organizational resources for their entrepreneurial activities within large and mature organizations.

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