A large volume of literature within human resource management studies and related disciplines suggests that innovation and learning are key factors for economic growth in the knowledge economy. Yet, surprisingly little is known about the key actors in this process – the inventive actors – and the factors that influence their innovative capacities. Information about individual inventors is difficult to obtain and therefore previous research has refrained from performing systematic empirical studies on this topic. Existing studies are often based on quantitative analyses of patent data, and empirics often focus on specific industries or technologies. Such studies provide great knowledge of the importance of specific patent takers for innovation and the knowledge economy; however, patent data do not provide information on influential factors on the innovative capacity of inventors and therefore do not provide any explanation concerning what it is that creates successful inventors. In other words, what we have is knowledge of patent takers in specific industries or technologies, but we lack an understanding of the socio-cultural factors and environments that shape individuals’ innovative capacities. Analysing the life-histories of three inventors allocated into three distinct ideal types, this chapter aims at understanding the links between socio-cultural factors and innovation. Life-history research through in-depth interviews provides a rich quantity of narratives and recorded experiences serving as a springboard for more comprehensive understandings of the actors, networks and events that influence innovative capacities.
Part of the book: Beyond Human Resources