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Counterbalancing Exploitative Knowledge Search during Environmental Dynamism: Reinforcing New Ideas for Existing Products


  • Nicolette Lakemond,

  • Jonas Detterfelt


Established firms face the challenge of counterbalancing their predominant focus on exploitation with exploration. This paper explores how these firms can reinforce new exploratory ideas for existing products, especially during periods of environmental dynamism. The study is based on an action research study at a new product development (NPD) department at an international manufacturing firm operating in a cyclical market. The results show that increased environmental dynamism opens new opportunities for counterbalancing exploitative approaches by building exploratory skills. The action contributed specifically to breaking with old traditions in the NPD organization, and resulted in actionable knowledge in terms of an ideation approach. However, the study also shows that fast industry cycles that do not match the remote returns of exploratory knowledge searches diminish the possibility to sustain exploratory knowledge searches in organizations. The paper identifies important problems related to the long-time horizon of exploration and the cyclical nature of industries.