Searching for Knowledge in Response to Problems from Proximate and Remote Sources: Evidence from the Renewable Electricity Industry
49 Pages Posted: 25 Sep 2017 Last revised: 19 Dec 2019
Date Written: December 10, 2019
Technological search studies argue that problems trigger search, but we lack understanding of which features of a problem associate with a critical search activity: search breadth. This paper considers how different problem sources—proximate versus remote problem sources—relate to heterogeneity in search breadth. Because of differences in how familiar firms are with each problem and in expectations of their ability to influence the problem source, problems triggered by remote sources are associated with greater technological search breadth. Firms’ technological capabilities, meanwhile, temper these findings, suggesting that more capable firms search more broadly when facing problems raised by proximate problem sources. We test these ideas using data describing the U.S. renewable electricity sector from 2000 to 2010, generating theoretical, empirical, and public policy implications.
Keywords: Problem Solving, Technological Search, Renewable Electricity, Knowledge, Innovation
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