Knowledge Sources and Waste Reduction: Less Now More Later

46 Pages Posted: 10 Nov 2016 Last revised: 10 Jan 2019

See all articles by Luca Berchicci

Luca Berchicci

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Rotterdam School of Management (RSM)

Nilanjana Dutt

Bocconi University - Department of Management and Technology

Will Mitchell

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business; University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

Date Written: November 8, 2016

Abstract

Unlike problems requiring new-to-the-world solutions that combine knowledge from multiple sources, operational problems can often be solved by repurposing existing knowledge from other contexts into new-to-the-firm solutions. Firms that seek new-to-the-firm solutions to operational problems face a cost-benefit tradeoff when deciding how many knowledge sources to use. With less need for knowledge recombination than for new-to-the-world solutions, greater knowledge breadth incurs greater screening and implementation costs without concomitant benefits. We study how U.S. manufacturing facilities, from 1991 to 2005, improve operational performance by reducing their rate of annual output of toxic chemical waste (i.e., improvements to operational effectiveness). Results show that search involving fewer knowledge sources in a given year is associated with greater improvements in operational performance (greater waste reduction). At the same time, though, using multiple knowledge sources over time helps improve operational performance, suggesting that avoiding satiation from a single source and learning across sources play temporal roles in toxic chemical waste reduction. Overall, the results suggest that the greatest improvements in operational performance arise with a focused search for new-to-the-firm solutions within periods, while also exploring multiple sources over time.

Keywords: Knowledge sources, problem solving, search, solutions, operational performance

Suggested Citation

Berchicci, Luca and Dutt, Nilanjana and Mitchell, Will, Knowledge Sources and Waste Reduction: Less Now More Later (November 8, 2016). Bocconi University Management Research Paper No. 12; Rotman School of Management Working Paper No. 2866426; Forthcoming in Organization Science. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2866426 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2866426

Luca Berchicci

Erasmus University Rotterdam (EUR) - Rotterdam School of Management (RSM) ( email )

P.O. Box 1738
Room T08-21
3000 DR Rotterdam, 3000 DR
Netherlands

Nilanjana Dutt (Contact Author)

Bocconi University - Department of Management and Technology ( email )

Via Roentgen 1
Milan, MI 20136
Italy

Will Mitchell

Duke University - Fuqua School of Business ( email )

Box 90120
Durham, NC 27708-0120
United States

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management

105 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6 M5S1S4
Canada

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