Firm-Specific, Industry-Specific, and Occupational Human Capital and the Sourcing of Knowledge Work

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Whereas capability differences are known to impact governance decisions, what drives heterogeneity in firm capabilities? We propose that capability differences may arise from governance choices related to the focal activity and study how firms accumulate capabilities in the firm-specific, industry-specific, and occupational human capital necessary to perform knowledge work. We theorize that prior outsourcing decisions influence the development of firm- and industry-specific human capital and that buyer–supplier differences in the management of skilled employees can produce systematic differences in capabilities based on occupational human capital. Additionally, we explore some contingencies in the development of these types of human capital and their impacts on outsourcing knowledge work. These propositions are tested with a unique data set on the outsourcing of legal work involved in filing patents (i.e., patent prosecution).

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