A Cognitive Approach to Diversity: Investigating the Impact of Board of Directors’ Educational and Functional Heterogeneity on Innovation Performance

  •  Ramzi Belkacemi    
  •  Kamal Bouzinab    
  •  Andrew Papadopoulos    


Boards’ diversity has been studied mainly through the prism of ethics, which translated into a focus on characteristics such as gender and ethnicity. However, when the goal is to explain organizational outcomes, the cognitive approach seems more pertinent. Thus, rooted in a resource dependency perspective, this paper investigates the potential impact of directors’ deep level diversity (functional and educational diversity) on innovation performance based on an international sample of 97 firms for a total of 1027 directors. The findings highlight the negative effect of functional diversity (measured by diversity in the sectors of expertise), and on the opposite, the positive impact of educational diversity (measured by diversity in the fields of study) on innovation performance. This study also shows that the environment in which organizations evolve, both at the internal and external level, is crucial when it comes to innovation performance. These results are robust in that they remain consistent after addressing some potential endogeneity issues and have critical implications for both the professional and academic world.

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