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Exploring and yet failing less: learning from past and current exploration in R & D

Exploring and yet failing less: learning from past and current exploration in R & D
Exploring and yet failing less: learning from past and current exploration in R & D

Exploration is both an important part of a firm's innovation strategy and an activity that involves a high degree of uncertainty. This article investigates a duality in the exploratory component of R &D activity with regard to innovation failure: while exploration is likely to increase firms' exposure to failure, it might also provide learning opportunities to reduce failure. Our study contributes to the innovation management and organizational learning literatures by demonstrating the value of exploratory R &D for enabling two types of learning mechanisms. The first, experience-based learning, is based on the learning opportunities derived from accumulated experience in exploratory R &D: it involves improvements to procedures associated with experimentation and provides guidance for current exploration and to navigate the search space. The second, inferential-based learning, is based on the learning opportunities derived from current exploratory R &D efforts, which are associated with improved interpretation of ill-defined problems and timely responses to unstructured information. We draw on a longitudinal data set of 2226 Spanish manufacturing companies and show that, when past experience is associated with current exploration, innovation failure in the conception phase is reduced. We also find an inverted Ushaped relation between current exploratory R &D and innovation failure, in both the conception and implementation phases of innovation activities, showing that increasing levels of investment in current exploration activities attenuate the initial positive association between exploratory R &D and failure.

0960-6491
525-553
D'Este, Pablo
12d93c67-476e-44fb-b762-2202ba1568fd
Marzucchi, Alberto
e95f0023-ac1a-4db7-b38b-c7f8c4186c7a
Rentocchini, Francesco
8ee609a8-8a3f-4a86-94be-5050f7d8c1cb
D'Este, Pablo
12d93c67-476e-44fb-b762-2202ba1568fd
Marzucchi, Alberto
e95f0023-ac1a-4db7-b38b-c7f8c4186c7a
Rentocchini, Francesco
8ee609a8-8a3f-4a86-94be-5050f7d8c1cb

D'Este, Pablo, Marzucchi, Alberto and Rentocchini, Francesco (2018) Exploring and yet failing less: learning from past and current exploration in R & D. Industrial and Corporate Change, 27 (3), 525-553. (doi:10.1093/icc/dtx044).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Exploration is both an important part of a firm's innovation strategy and an activity that involves a high degree of uncertainty. This article investigates a duality in the exploratory component of R &D activity with regard to innovation failure: while exploration is likely to increase firms' exposure to failure, it might also provide learning opportunities to reduce failure. Our study contributes to the innovation management and organizational learning literatures by demonstrating the value of exploratory R &D for enabling two types of learning mechanisms. The first, experience-based learning, is based on the learning opportunities derived from accumulated experience in exploratory R &D: it involves improvements to procedures associated with experimentation and provides guidance for current exploration and to navigate the search space. The second, inferential-based learning, is based on the learning opportunities derived from current exploratory R &D efforts, which are associated with improved interpretation of ill-defined problems and timely responses to unstructured information. We draw on a longitudinal data set of 2226 Spanish manufacturing companies and show that, when past experience is associated with current exploration, innovation failure in the conception phase is reduced. We also find an inverted Ushaped relation between current exploratory R &D and innovation failure, in both the conception and implementation phases of innovation activities, showing that increasing levels of investment in current exploration activities attenuate the initial positive association between exploratory R &D and failure.

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More information

e-pub ahead of print date: 17 November 2017
Published date: 1 June 2018

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 421821
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/421821
ISSN: 0960-6491
PURE UUID: b2918257-54ba-4a69-9b07-6c0dbb08e91b

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 29 Jun 2018 16:30
Last modified: 07 Oct 2020 00:34

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