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Towards a Richer Specification of the Exploration/Exploitation Trade-off: Hidden Knowledge-based Aspects and Empirical Results for a Set of Large R&D-Performing Firms

  • Schubert, Torben

    ()

    (CIRCLE, Lund University)

  • Neuhaeusler, Peter

    ()

    (ISI-Fraunhofer, Germany)

In this paper we describe a richer framework characterizing the trade-off between exploration and exploitation with respect firm performance. We devise a model that complements the notion of organizational learning as a process of inferential learning from the past with an explicit incorporation of a knowledge/information-related theory. Based on this and an international panel data set of large R&D performing firms, we can show empirically that a firm’s innovation activities affect its growth perspectives and its asset base differently, depending on the degree of exploitation/exploration. We also show that competitors’ R&D has important diverging effects on other firms which again depend on the degree of exploitation/exploration. Finally, we demonstrate the mediating role of environmental risk. We therefore argue that the trade-off between exploration and exploitation has (at least) three constituent dimensions: an internal dimension relating to performance in terms of increasing sales growth and preservation of the asset base, an external competitive dimension, and a contingency dimension relating to environmental factors such as risk. We conclude that the trade-off between exploration and exploitation can only be fully understood, if all three components are taken into account simultaneously.

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Paper provided by Lund University, CIRCLE - Center for Innovation, Research and Competences in the Learning Economy in its series Papers in Innovation Studies with number 2012/8.

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Length: 32 pages
Date of creation: 10 Apr 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hhs:lucirc:2012_008
Contact details of provider: Postal: CIRCLE, Lund University, PO Box 117, SE-22100 Lund, Sweden
Phone: +46 (0) 46 222 74 68
Web page: http://www.circle.lu.se/

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  1. Atul Nerkar, 2003. "Old Is Gold? The Value of Temporal Exploration in the Creation of New Knowledge," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 49(2), pages 211-229, February.
  2. Teece, David J. & Rumelt, Richard & Dosi, Giovanni & Winter, Sidney, 1994. "Understanding corporate coherence : Theory and evidence," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 1-30, January.
  3. Olof Ejermo & Astrid Kander, 2011. "Swedish business research productivity," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(4), pages 1081-1118, August.
  4. Kander, Astrid & Enflo, Kerstin & Schön, Lennart, 2007. "In Defense of Electricity as a General Purpose Technology," Papers in Innovation Studies 2007/6, Lund University, CIRCLE - Center for Innovation, Research and Competences in the Learning Economy.
  5. Henk W. Volberda & Arie Y. Lewin, 2003. "Co-evolutionary Dynamics Within and Between Firms: From Evolution to Co-evolution," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(8), pages 2111-2136, December.
  6. Justin J. P. Jansen & Frans A. J. Van Den Bosch & Henk W. Volberda, 2006. "Exploratory Innovation, Exploitative Innovation, and Performance: Effects of Organizational Antecedents and Environmental Moderators," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 52(11), pages 1661-1674, November.
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