Search, Reactive and Proactive: Theory and Behavioral Evidence on the Roles of Trailing Aspirations and Performance Stability
Posted: 7 Jun 2017 Last revised: 9 Mar 2022
Date Written: February 4, 2021
Search is fundamental to managers and firms alike, but the processes that underlie it remain untested or contested. We join the effort to uncover the micro-processes of search with a multimethod approach, combining qualitative evidence, behavioral simulations, and a preregistered experiment (n=4,750 decisions by 1,693 participants). We confirm a central assumption: Individuals increase exploration when trailing aspirations. Yet we also theorize that exploratory search can be not only reactive — but also proactive. We show that when searchers experience ongoing performance stability, they broaden exploration. The theory and evidence carry implications to our discussions of exploration–exploitation, risk, mental models, and the links between the individual and the organizational.
Keywords: Exploration, exploitation, performance, feedback, individual, experiment
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