The Challenge of Hydrogen and Fuel Cells
Edited by Stefano Pogutz, Angeloantonio Russo and Paolo Migliavacca
Chapter 7: Balancing Exploration and Exploitation Across Firm Boundaries: Intra- and Interorganizational Learning in the Fuel Cell Industry
Clodia Vurro and Angeloantonio Russo INTRODUCTION Since the seminal contribution by March (1991), research on exploration and exploitation has suffered from a dilemma. Although representing two different, seemingly incompatible organizational learning dynamics (Siggelkow and Levinthal, 2003), an appropriate balance between the exploration of new learning trajectories and the exploitation of old ones has been widely recognized as critical to success in the long run (Levinthal and March, 1993; March, 1991). In fact, along with the increasing recognition of knowledge as the most strategically important resource for firms, organizational capabilities are now considered critical to competitive advantage – that is, both efficiency in accessing and utilizing specialist knowledge and breadth of specialized knowledge (Grant, 1996). Yet, notwithstanding the increasing popularity of the ambidexterity premises introduced by Tushman and O’Reilly (1996), according to which firms should be able to simultaneously pursue both exploration and exploitation via loosely coupled and differentiated subunits or individuals (Benner and Tushman, 2003), the literature has identified few empirical findings on how to accomplish this daunting challenge and on the effect of such balancing on performance. Instead, research has been concerned with learning either at the firm level or at the interorganizational level. On the one hand and from an internal perspective, some authors have highlighted both the need for congruence between organizational forms and learning strategies (Brown and Eisenhardt, 1997; Siggelkow and Levinthal, 2003) and the positive impact of the simultaneous pursuit of exploration and exploitation on innovation (Katila and Ahuja, 2002) and performance (He and Wong, 2004)...
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