Beyond Jacks-of-all-Trades: Functional Diversity of Work Experiences and Employee Corporate Venturing

Xu Han, The College of New Jersey, and Martine Haas, Management, The Wharton School

Abstract: Prior research suggests that building an entrepreneurial venture requires diverse functional knowledge, and therefore individuals will be more likely to pursue entrepreneurship if they possess such knowledge. However, there is another way for individuals to meet a venture’s need for diverse functional knowledge: by working with others who have such knowledge. This raises the question of whether engagement in entrepreneurial activity might be influenced not only by work experiences that enable individuals to acquire diverse functional knowledge of their own, but also by work experiences that can help them develop the skills needed to work effectively with others who have such knowledge. We address this question by examining how employees’ work experiences within a firm influence their propensity to undertake internal corporate venturing, and considering not only the functional diversity of their jobs but also the functional diversity of the teams in which they have worked. We test our hypotheses about the independent, interactive, and contingent effects of job functional diversity and team functional diversity on corporate venturing using a unique longitudinal employee-month dataset constructed from the detailed work histories of over 16,000 employees in a leading multinational corporation. Our findings advance scholarly understanding of the importance of diverse functional knowledge for entrepreneurship, how firms shape entrepreneurial activity, and the micro-foundations of corporate venturing within firms.