Something old, something new: A longitudinal study of search behavior and new product introduction

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Citation: Riitta Katila, Gautam Ahuja (2002) Something old, something new: A longitudinal study of search behavior and new product introduction. The Academy of Management Journal (RSS)
Internet Archive Scholar (fulltext): Something old, something new: A longitudinal study of search behavior and new product introduction
Tagged: Business (RSS) strategy (RSS), innovation (RSS), patents (RSS), organizational learning (RSS)

Summary (Abstract)

Katila and Ahuja's article uses data from product development to suggest that the commonly used one-dimensional spectrum offered famously by March (1991) between exploration and exploitation may be better reconceptualized as incorporating two distinct dimensions: search depth and search scope.

Depth refers to how frequently or deeply a firm reuses its knowledge. Scope refers to how widely a firm explores new knowledge or the degree of new knowledge explored. The paper uses a dependent variable that is the number of new products introduced by a firm.

The author suggest three hypotheses:

  1. Search depth is curvilinearly (inverted U shape) related to the number of new products introduced by a firm. (Supported)
  2. Search scope is curvilinearly (inverted U shape) related to the number of new products introduced by a firm. (Not supported. There was a linear relationship instead.)
  3. The interaction of search depth and scope is positively related to the number of new products introduced by a firm. (Supported)

Empirical data for the hypothesis tests comes from a dataset of industrial robotics companies from the Europe, Japan, and North America. New innovations are operationalized from patent data which they argue represent new innovations which might form new combinations or products. They can use data on the degree to which patents are reused or recited and the degree to which the breadth of patents are used.

They conclude with support for their major theory and suggestions of treating each effect separately can provide strategic suggestions to not only focus on the degree of exploration possible but to focus on exploiting existing competencies effectively.

Theoretical and Practical Relevance

The article has been cited more than 400 times since it was published 8 years ago in the innovation and learning literatures in particular and is now an almost essential citation any topic related to exploration versus exploitation.

The paper seems to be very consistent with Sanderson and Uzumeri's (1995) Managing product families: The case of the Sony Walkman.