Meeting the Innovation Challenge
Edited by John Bessant and Tim Venables
9. Search strategies for discontinuous innovation John Bessant and Bettina von Stamm 1. INTRODUCTION A key aspect of innovation is the search activity that organizations undertake to ﬁnd trigger signals to start the process. Whether these are ‘push’ signals – creation of new knowledge or acquisition and internalizing of that generated elsewhere – or ‘pull’ signals (market demand, competitor behaviour, shifts in the regulatory framework, etc.), the key questions concern how well the organization manages the search process. The concept of search routines was ﬁrst outlined by Nelson and Winter, building on earlier work by Cyert, March and Simon (Cyert and March 1963; Simon and March 1992; Nelson and Winter 1982). In essence they argue that ﬁrms undertake a trial and error approach working within a bounded search space – the selection environment. This search behaviour is also shaped by pathways – technological and other trajectories – that become established over time as promising avenues in which the ﬁrm and its competitors carry out their search (Dosi 1982). While search is initially a trial and error process, it becomes ‘routinized’ – successful strategies are reinforced and embedded in procedures and systems while less successful strategies are abandoned. Zollo and Winter have elaborated the concept, building on work by, inter alia, Cohen and Levinthal, and Zahra and George, stressing links with absorptive capacity and dynamic capability (Cohen et al. 1996; Zollo and Winter 2002; Zahra and George 2002). Importantly, Nelson and Winter draw a distinction between operational routines, which maintain the established search patterns, and strategic routines,...
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