What Drives Exploration? Convergence and Divergence of Exploration Tendencies Among Alliance Partners and Competitors
Academy of Management Journal, 2020, 63(5), 1425-1454
51 Pages Posted: 11 Oct 2019 Last revised: 3 Nov 2020
Date Written: October 1, 2020
Management research has alluded to organizational and environmental conditions that drive firms’ tendencies to explore versus exploit. We complement this research by developing theory on vicarious learning to explain how a firm adjusts its own exploration level based on the exploration levels of its alliance partners and competitors. Using panel data on 180 electronics firms publicly traded in the U.S., we reveal an inverted U-shaped association between the firm’s exploration tendency and the exploration levels of its partners and competitors. Convergence is explained by imitation and legitimation, while divergence is associated with risk perception and specialization in the knowledge domain. We further show how the convergence of the exploration tendency becomes stronger under firm-specific uncertainty but weaker when the exploration patterns exhibited by the firm’s partners and competitors are incoherent. Finally, counter to expectations, we show that this convergence is weakened by the technological proximity of the firm’s competitors. Our findings inform research on vicarious learning and the antecedents of exploration by underscoring the role of interdependence in firms’ exploration tendencies.
Keywords: Technology and innovation management, Organizational learning, Organization and Management Theory, Interorganizational linkages, Cooperative strategy
JEL Classification: M1, M10, M19
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation