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The explore–exploit tension: A case study of organizing in a professional services firm

journal contribution
posted on 09.04.2018 by Aaron Smith, David H. Gilbert, Fiona Sutherland
This article reports on a case study of a decade-long organizing forms response to the need for groundbreaking innovation while maintaining existing operational performance – the explore–exploit conundrum. Employing ‘grounded research,’ data were collected on the experiences of the Asia-Pacific arm of a multinational professional service firm’s key decisionmakers, innovators and entrepreneurs. The findings reveal a three-tiered organizing forms response to the explore–exploit paradox, characterized by a novel combination of heavy exploitation-driven actions alongside deep exploration projects. This case suggests that one successful approach to delivering on both explore and exploit focuses on a productive tension that emerges by enacting innovative organizing forms with contextual awareness. This productive tension was sufficiently powerful to impel individuals to innovate, but also sufficiently contained to avoid interfering with commercial outcomes. An explore–exploit framework conceptualizes organizational changes incorporating complexity and contradiction, without the implicit emphasis on removing or denying the existing tension.

History

School

  • Loughborough University London

Published in

Journal of Management & Organization

Volume

23

Issue

04

Pages

566 - 586

Citation

SMITH, A.C., GILBERT, D.H. and SUTHERLAND, F., 2017. The explore–exploit tension: A case study of organizing in a professional services firm. Journal of Management & Organization, 23 (4), pp.566-586.

Publisher

© Cambridge University Press and Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management

Version

VoR (Version of Record)

Acceptance date

27/01/2017

Publication date

2017-02-23

Notes

This paper is closed access.

ISSN

1833-3672

eISSN

1839-3527

Language

en

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