Managing Innovation in a Multi-Divisional Firm: When Does Mobility across Divisions Improve R&D Managers’ Performance?



Multi-divisional firms often seek to achieve cross-divisional synergies and develop managerial talent for their innovation activities by transferring their R&D employees through a variety of assignments in different divisions, yet the implications for managers’ ability to contribute to innovation are largely unexplored. To examine these implications, we introduce the concept of an “assignment portfolio”, which refers to the set of assignments an R&D manager has undertaken across divisions. We argue that R&D managers with assignment portfolios characterized by greater coherence across divisions and greater concentration within the current division will perform more effectively, but that these benefits will depend on the extent to which the context of their current division favors exploitation versus exploration. We test our arguments using survey and archival data from 241 R&D managers in a Fortune 500 technology-intensive multinational corporation.