A Behavioral Perspective on Inventors’ Mobility: The Case of Pharmaceutical Industry



Building on the previous and current research on talented employees’ mobility, the paper attempts to answer to the questions “why do inventors move?” Recent studies propose answer to this fundamental question focusing mainly either on incentives structure in inventor’s contracts or external labor market opportunities. However, we still do not have a clear understanding on the sociological underpinnings characterizing mobility, in particular about the inventor’s motivational rationales behind the engagement in such risky decision. Therefore, the current paper is an exploratory attempt that seeks to build on behavioral and prospect theory, particularly, on the literature of managerial risk taking (Cyert and March, 1963; Kahneman and Tversky, 1979; March and Shapira, 1987) in order to explore the motivational influences on individual mobility across firms in the pharmaceutical industry - specifically how performance deviations from specific reference points (social aspirations) explain the likelihood of mobility (a risky action). The results of our research confirm and extend previous studies on mobility: along with firm’s incentive structure to retain talented employees and inventors’ labor market explain the likelihood of mobility, inventor’s performance deviations from social aspiration levels also predict inventor’s likelihood of mobility. In particular, as predicted by our theory, inventors performing above social aspirations show a risk-averse profile (less likely to move), and inventors performing below social aspirations show a risk- taking profile (more likely to move).