About WTS Prof. Clair Brown Faculty, Students and Affiliates Research Areas Online Research Reports Working Papers

The following CWTS working paper is available upon request:
An International Investigation of Problem-Solving Performance in the Semiconductor Industry
by Melissa M. Appleyard, Clair Brown, and Linda Sattler


Using a unique survey of engineers in major semiconductor companies located in Japan, South Korea, and the United States, this article analyzes how a firm's knowledge system (i.e., information access, sharing and control) and Human Resource (HR) system (i.e., practices that structure work, develop skills, and reward performance) are related to the problem-solving performance of engineers. Because of the short product market lifecycles in the semiconductor industry, expeditious problem solving is an important performance goal. Therefore, we examine the performance of engineers in terms of the time it takes them to solve problems in the context of their firms' knowledge and HR systems. We anticipated that externally-focused organizational systems would lead to superior performance. Our findings support the hypothesis that engineers who use external private networks (both personal and those supported by the firm) and who work in externally-oriented HR systems (which support individual career performance and mobility) solve problems more quickly than engineers who rely on internal networks and publicly-available information and who work in internally-oriented HR systems (which focus on internal rules and training). These findings are applicable to engineers in our sample from the United States, while the findings for the Korean and Japanese engineers are inconclusive. We find international variation where the U.S. engineers work under the most externally-oriented and the Japanese engineers under the least externally-oriented systems, and the Korean engineers fall in between. The findings of this article suggest that when constructing a work environment for new product development, managers need to take into account a broad spectrum of employment policies that go beyond traditional HR practices and include specific policies that influence knowledge flows.

Online Data Appendix:

Description of Variables

Cross-country Analysis of Variance

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