Chapter

The Wide (and Increasing) Spread of Technological Competencies in the World's Largest Firms: A Challenge to Conventional Wisdom *

Pari Patel and Keith Pavitt

in The Dynamic Firm

Published in print September 1999 | ISBN: 9780198296041
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780191596070 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0198296045.003.0009
 The Wide (and Increasing) Spread of Technological Competencies in the World's Largest Firms: A Challenge to Conventional Wisdom *

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Addresses the specificities of firm competencies using data on more than 400 of the largest firms in the world. It demonstrates that these firms are characterized by being increasingly ‘multitechnology’, and are both stable and differentiated, with the firms’ main products strongly influencing their technology profile and direction of localized technological search. Together with home‐country conditions, the main products are also found to play an important role for the rate of search. Any determinism is, however, modified, since when looking at levels and rates of increase in technological activities, unexplained variance suggests that there is considerable scope for managerial choice. The extensive empirical data are argued to support several challenging conclusions about large firms, such as: they are heavily constrained in their technology choices and a technology strategy cannot really be outsourced; they are immune to radical technological breakthroughs to a surprising extent; and they are less than ‘focused’ in their technology strategy.

Keywords: companies; competence; constraints; firms; large firms; managerial choice; multitechnology; products; technological competence; technology; technology choices; technology strategy

Chapter.  7666 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Microeconomics

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