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Cognitive Distance in and Between COP’s and Firms: Where do Exploitation and Exploration take Place, and How are they Connected?


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  • Nooteboom, B.

    (Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research)


This paper contributes to the analysis of where and how both exploitation and exploration may take place inside and between communities and organizations. It connects with the discussion of differences between communities of practice and epistemic communities. The analysis allows for differences in cognition within communities of practice (‘cognitive distance’). Such distance yields potential novelty but creates problems in utilizing that potential. In communities of practice and epistemic communities different trade-offs are made between the advantages and disadvantages of cognitive distance. Communities of practice are more oriented at exploitation, at relatively small cognitive distance. Exploration may take place in epistemic communities, with larger internal cognitive distance, but may also arise from interaction between different communities of practice, utilizing the distance between them. Organizations serve to provide the basis for the governance of such interaction. This, however, does limit the cognitive distance, and hence exploration potential, within an organization. For more radical exploration, interaction is needed between organizations, at the price of greater efforts to set up and govern collaboration. Next to communities of practice, epistemic communities and organizations, the analysis also includes communities of professionals across different organizations. They also have a role to play in a wider system of organizational forms for exploitation and exploration.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Tilburg University, Center for Economic Research in its series Discussion Paper with number 2007-4.

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Date of creation: 2007
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Handle: RePEc:dgr:kubcen:20074

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Keywords: innovation; exploration and exploitation; communities of practice;

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  1. Nooteboom, B. & Vanheverbeke, W.P.M. & Duysters, G.M. & Gilsing, V.A. & Oord van den, A,J,, 2005. "Optimal cognitive distance and absorptive capacity," Eindhoven Center for Innovation Studies (ECIS) working paper series 05.05, Eindhoven Center for Innovation Studies (ECIS).
  2. Joanne Roberts, 2006. "Limits to Communities of Practice," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 43(3), pages 623-639, 05.
  3. Alchian, Armen A & Demsetz, Harold, 1972. "Production , Information Costs, and Economic Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 62(5), pages 777-95, December.
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Cited by:
  1. Jean-Philippe Bootz & Régine Monti, 2008. "Les démarches prospectives:de l’aide à la décision à la conduite du changement," Revue Finance Contrôle Stratégie,, vol. 11(1), pages 41-70, March.
  2. Lynn Godkin & Seth Allcorn, 2011. "Organizational Resistance to Destructive Narcissistic Behavior," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 104(4), pages 559-570, December.


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