How the Organizational Design of R&D Units Affects Individual Search Intensity: A Network Study

Julia Brennecke, Wolfgang Sofka, Peng Wang

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This study investigates how intraorganizational search behavior of R&D professionals is shaped by the organizational design for task collaboration between R&D units. More precisely, we examine how formally prescribed R&D unit task collaboration and the distinct roles of R&D units as recipients and sources in such collaboration affect how intensively unit members search for advice and knowledge. To this end, we integrate theoretical mechanisms from knowledge search and organizational design literatures into models explaining the emergence of work-related advice networks among employees in corporate R&D. Empirically, we capture the influence of unit-level task collaboration on individual-level search by applying exponential random graph modelling to multilevel network data collected on 193 employees belonging to 38 R&D units in a leading German high-tech firm. Results show that the extent to which R&D units function as recipients in unit task collaboration on the one hand and as sources on the other influences unit members’ search intensity in opposite ways. Members of units functioning as recipients for many other units search less intensively, i.e., there is a substitution effect. Conversely, if R&D units are sources for many other units, their members search more intensively. The latter complementarity effect is weaker for R&D units that are specialized on a particular product component.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104219
JournalResearch Policy
Issue number5
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • Individual search
  • Organizational design
  • R&D unit task collaboration
  • Network
  • Corporate R&D
  • Component specialization

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