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Exaptation as source of creativity and innovation


  • Andrea GANZAROLI
  • Luciano PILOTTI


In this paper we investigate exaptation as source of creativity and innovation. This term addresses natural features that enhance fitness, but were not built up by natural selection for this purpose. In the management literature this term has been used to address the exploitation of an existing body of knowledge to enter an emerging technological trajectory and gain a competitive advantage in a relative industry. So far, however, little attention has been devoted to the evolutionary dynamics underling and generated by this process. Therefore, in this paper we deepen our understanding of those aspects. Our main contribution is to highlight the discontinuous nature of those changes. Exaptation, differently from adaptations, are not selected for their contribution to the optimization of an existing function, but for their availability to perform an emerging function. Therefore, exaptations are not selected, but select and contribute to build up the environment valorising their potential.

Suggested Citation

  • Andrea GANZAROLI & Luciano PILOTTI, 2011. "Exaptation as source of creativity and innovation," Departmental Working Papers 2011-04, Department of Economics, Management and Quantitative Methods at Universit√† degli Studi di Milano.
  • Handle: RePEc:mil:wpdepa:2011-04

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    Evolution; Adaptation; Exaptation; Knowledge; Innovation;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • L26 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior - - - Entrepreneurship
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness


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