The role of knowledge specialists in multiple – goal pursuit

Research Seminars
Academic Areas Strategy
Kamini Gupta, PhD candidate in Strategy and Entrepreneurship , London Business SchoolPhD candidate in Strategy and Entrepreneurship from London Business School
January 23, 2017 | 6:30 PM - 8:00 PM | Monday
Hyderabad, India
Open to Public
What enables organizations to pursue multiple goals simultaneously? Scholars agree that structural separation of goals is integral to answering this question and have thus far focused on integrating the efforts of structurally separate work units specializing in one goal at a time. However, in some cases structurally separating work units on the basis of goals is either impossible or undesirable. For such cases, I explored whether knowledge specialization can improve the performance of work units that lack structural separation (or task specialization). To do this, I conducted a field experiment across 25 locations of a social enterprise in India, where I randomly assigned different types of “knowledge specialists,” or “experts,” to 101 work units. The results of this field experiment along with extensive qualitative work after the experiment show that specialists can be useful in increasing performance but that their effectiveness depends on the nature of goals within the organization. Highlighting the interplay between the specialists’ capability and motivation, the study suggests that even though knowledge specialists have the capability to increase work unit performance, the exact nature of the goals determines motivation and the manner in which specialists exert their capability.