Motivating technical visionaries in large american companies

John M. Hebda, Bruce A. Vojak, Abbie Griffin, Raymond L. Price

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Many studies have been performed previously to investigate different theories of motivation and, more specifically, how to motivate technical professionals. The problem with these studies is that they consider groups of scientists, engineers, or technical professionals as a whole or "on average,"despite the fact that not all technical professionals are the same. One particular set of individuals - technical visionaries - is a key driver of technical innovation and new product development within technology-intensive organizations. While the literature intimates the existence of these highly innovative individuals in industry, technical visionaries have not been investigated in a systematic manner. Through in-depth interviews with 24 technical visionaries, identified as such by managers in their firms, this study identifies what methods are used in industry to motivate these exceptional individuals, what works and what does not. Our results show that technical visionaries are first and foremost motivated by internal factors, including the desire to see their ideas become a reality, and enjoying working "on-the-edge,"and innovating. While many aspects of standard incentives and reward systems used to motivate technical professionals in general are also motivating for technical visionaries, these results indicate that they are motivated by additional factors not generally discussed in the literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)433-444
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Engineering Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Incentives
  • Innovation
  • Motivation
  • Technical visionaries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Strategy and Management
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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