Simulating Innovation

Simulating Innovation

Computer-based Tools for Rethinking Innovation

Christopher Watts and Nigel Gilbert

Christopher Watts and Nigel Gilbert explore the generation, diffusion and impact of innovations, which can now be studied using computer simulations.

Chapter 4: Explore and exploit

Christopher Watts and Nigel Gilbert

Subjects: business and management, organisational innovation, economics and finance, economics of innovation, evolutionary economics, innovation and technology, economics of innovation, organisational innovation, social policy and sociology, sociology and sociological theory


At the end of the previous chapter a model was discussed in which agents needed the diffusion of new information for a purpose: keeping track of their environment. This was a task which they could perform better collectively, via their social network, than they could if they acted independently. But they were vulnerable to herd behaviour, collective mistakes that individuals struggled to correct. This chapter continues the themes of innovation being useful for some task or end, and of agentsí behavioural practices and social network structure having an effect on their ability to perform that task. In particular, performance depends on a balance between exploring new ideas, or generating innovations, and exploiting innovations already found, diffusing them to others. The next chapter will cover models of scientists exploring and exploiting ideas through academic publications. This chapter examines the use of simulation models of the ways in which organisations and the people working in them innovate in their day-to-day activities, what are called models of organisational learning.

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