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Exploration vs. Exploitation: An Empirical Test of the Ambidexterity Hypothesis


  • Zi-Lin He

    () (Department of Management, University of Otago, P.O. Box 56, Dunedin, New Zealand)

  • Poh-Kam Wong

    () (NUS Entrepreneurship Centre, National University of Singapore, 14 Prince George's Park, Singapore 118412)


While exploration and exploitation represent two fundamentally different approaches to organizational learning, recent literature has increasingly indicated the need for firms to achieve a balance between the two. This balanced view is embedded in the concept of ambidextrous organizations. However, there is little direct evidence of the positive effect of ambidexterity on firm performance. This paper seeks to test the ambidexterity hypothesis by examining how exploration and exploitation can jointly influence firm performance in the context of firms' approach to technological innovation. Based on a sample of 206 manufacturing firms, we find evidence consistent with the ambidexterity hypothesis by showing that (1) the interaction between explorative and exploitative innovation strategies is positively related to sales growth rate, and (2) the relative imbalance between explorative and exploitative innovation strategies is negatively related to sales growth rate.

Suggested Citation

  • Zi-Lin He & Poh-Kam Wong, 2004. "Exploration vs. Exploitation: An Empirical Test of the Ambidexterity Hypothesis," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 15(4), pages 481-494, August.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ororsc:v:15:y:2004:i:4:p:481-494
    DOI: 10.1287/orsc.1040.0078

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    References listed on IDEAS

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