Explorative search for a high-impact innovation: the role of technological status in the global pharmaceutical industry



Extant studies suggest that the potential benefits arising from exploration are associated with access to diverse and distant knowledge across organizational and technological boundaries. However, exploration is not sufficient to assure if innovation actually occurs. Our study identifies exploration into two types, organizational and technological, and argues that the innovative effect of a firm's explorative search beyond organizational and technological boundaries is best leveraged by its technological status in an industry. Data derived from the global pharmaceutical industry indicate that a firm's search across organizational boundaries has a positive effect on its innovation impact, and such effect is strengthened when the firm is high in its technological status. However, the firm's search moving beyond its technological boundary increases innovation impact only for the group of high technological status but decreases it for the low-status group. It appears that, in the global pharmaceutical industry, a firm's technological status is most critical to exploit knowledge from distant technology domains.