Exploration and Exploitation in Innovation: Reframing the Interpretation

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Abstract

There has been a burgeoning literature about exploitation and exploration since March's seminal article in 1991. However, in reviewing the extant literature we find different interpretations of both concepts leading to ambiguity and even some inconsistency. This paper focuses in particular on the interpretation of exploration and exploitation in the literature on technological innovation. It addresses two critical research questions. First, what are the different interpretations of exploitation and exploration? Second, how can we set up a framework that reconciles these differences and reduces the ambiguity that we find in the literature? To answer these two questions, we first explain what the root causes of these different viewpoints are. Second, we provide a theoretical framework that integrates the different perspectives, sets up a new typology to define exploration and exploitation, identifies white spaces in the current research and provides guidance for future research.

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