2004/19 LEM Working Paper Series

Skills, Division of Labor and Performance in Collective Inventions.
Evidence from the Open Source Software

Paola Giuri, Matteo Ploner, Francesco Rullani, and Salvatore Torrisi

Software, Technological innovation, Human capital, Modularity

  JEL Classifications
L86 O32, J24

This paper investigates the role of skills and the division of labor among participants in collective inventions. Our analysis draws on a large sample of projects registered at Sourceforge.net, the world’s largest incubator of open source software activity. We explore the hypothesis that the level of skills of participants and their skill variety are important for project performance. Skill heterogeneity across participants is in line with two fundamental organizational features of the open source development model: team work and modular design. We also test the hypothesis whether the level of modularization of project activities is an important predictor of performance. The results provide support to the hypothesis that the skill level is important for the survival of open source projects. Moreover, we found that skill heterogeneity is positive for innovation. Finally, design modularity is positively associated with the performance of the project.

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