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Exploration-Exploitation Redirecting the discussion Frido Smulders PhD Strategic Product Design Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering Delft University.

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Presentation on theme: "Exploration-Exploitation Redirecting the discussion Frido Smulders PhD Strategic Product Design Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering Delft University."— Presentation transcript:


2 Exploration-Exploitation Redirecting the discussion Frido Smulders PhD Strategic Product Design Faculty of Industrial Design Engineering Delft University of Technology Presented at 16 th IPDMC, EIASM June 2010, Murcia 2011’s host of 17 th IPDMC

3 2 Transition NPD-Manufacturing “… many things have been too complicated to the people and knowledge of the people … it [the new product] was not balanced … […] I think it was … we were aiming too high…” Agent from manufacturing department when he addressed the transition from NPD to Manufacturing! Frido Smulders

4 3 This paper aims to illustrate that … … the Exploration-Exploitation literature is in need of a new perspective … companies seem not to care about the exploration-exploitation distinction in the way discussed by academics … all exploration is in need of some sort of exploitation, sooner or later! … exploitation is sequentially depended from exploration … the literature doesn’t address the transition from exploration to exploitation … the perspective created could redirecting the discussion. 3 Frido Smulders

5 4 Set up presentation Brief overview of literature Cases to illustrate sequential dependency Research that aimed to describe the transition –Approach –Results Elaboration of results Management implications Future research Frido Smulders

6 Exploration - Exploitation (March 1991) Exploration –Renewing product portfolio, new products/services –Search, experimenting, creativity, innovation, risk taking Exploitation: –Creating process reliability & product quality –Refining, incremental improvements, efficiency Frido Smulders

7 6 Exploration-Exploitation literature.1 It all starts with March (1991) Adaptation by exploration and/or by exploitation Adaptation by slow or fast learning Knowledge equilibria An interesting perspective triggering many other scholars to research it. Many new and additional perspectives are introduced. However, literature seems still to be incomplete, contradictory and ambiguous (Gupta, Smith & Shalley, 2006)

8 7 Frido Smulders Exploration-Exploitation literature.2 Some perspectives and issues: Ambidexterity, Tushman & O’Reilly 1996 Balancing (De Weerd Nederhof 2010, Corso & Pelligrini 2007) Explorative & exploitative innovations (Benner & Tushman 2002, He & Wong 2004) Orthogonal or continuum (Gupta et al. 2006) Balancing requires full dexterity (Corso & Pelligrini 2007) H2 transform from explorative company to exploitative company (Holmqvist 2004) Balancing on higher levels, across comp. in network (Gupta et al. 2006) No attention for transfer of ideas from one process to next

9 8 Frido Smulders Exploration-Exploitation literature.3 Recently Farjoun (2010) introduced an interesting perspective: He distinguishes between mechanisms and outcomes He transfers exploration into its derivative change and exploitation into stability Stability and change both could be seen as outcomes and mechanisms –Stability as mechanism could lead to stability ánd change –Change as mechanism could lead to change ánd stability He questions causality between org arrangements and resulting outcomes He makes these two interdependent and potentially compatible Here I will go beyond that and make exploration and exploitation sequentially dependable

10 9 Frido Smulders Concluding on literature: Lots of perspectives Lots of ambiguous issues & definitions March (1991) mentions: “adaptive systems that engage in exploration at the exclusion of exploitation are likely to find that they suffer the costs of experimentation without gaining many of its benefits” Transitional perspective lacks Sequential perspective  What is it that companies worry about? Getting return from investment! Transition from Exploration to Exploitation falls in between the cracks !

11 Frido Smulders Some examples: Design agency Design agency, e.g. Ideo –Operational process is to be seen as: “Search, variation, risk taking, experimentation, flexibility, discovery, innovation” –Leads to new ideas for clients –From Ideo’s perspective this is within “existing competencies, technologies and paradigms” (March) => exploitative adaptation Observation: –Operational process is exploitation of existing competencies however with exploratory character –What will exploration look like for design agencies? Meta- exploration …? 10

12 Frido Smulders Some examples: Shipbuilding Shipbuilding, e.g. IHC Yard Gusto –Specialized in design, engineering and construction of unique offshore crafts (Drill ships, pipelay vessels, dredgers, crane vessels, etc. –Design part of operational process is to be seen as exploratory: “Search, variation, risk taking, experimentation, flexibility, discovery, innovation” –Construction part is exploitative within “existing competencies, technologies and paradigms” –Yard closed in late 70s => Gusto Engineering part of SBM Offshore –Change in business model: selling designs rather then vessels –Increased amount of proprietary designs Observation: –Operational process was cut at transition from exploratory character to exploitative character –New business model with extended exploitative elements, selling proprietary designs –Different form of exploratory adaptation: developing new designs 11

13 Frido Smulders Some examples: R&D lab Exploratory R&D lab to exploitative R&D, e.g. Centro Ricerche Fiat (CRF) –Exploratory adaptation in service of FIAT Group, no exploitation needed –CRF’s main business: “Search, variation, risk taking, experimentation, flexibility, discovery, innovation” => exploration –CRF strategy in 90’s: less depended on income FIAT => turn CRF into profit centre –Exploitative organization needed to be build –Additional org structures, new roles/functions, new image –Slogan: Competitiveness for Customers at Competitive Prices (CCCP) Observation: –One can not competitively sell results of exploratory adaptation –Exploratory operational process of CRF was in need of exploitative ‘tail’ 12

14 13 Frido Smulders Concluding on examples Stability as process could lead to change as outcome (Farjoun 2010) The character of process is not the indicator for kind of adaptation March mentions: revenues of exploration are distant in time Exploratory adaptation needs exploitative adaptation sooner or later! Transitional perspective needed => Exploitative adaptation seen as sequentially dependent on exploratory adaptation! Let’s have look at a well known transition: NPD-Manufacturing

15 14 Frido Smulders Additional motivations What is innovation? The process of the outcome? –Innovation is seen from perspective of observer –Innovativeness is situational Actors engaged in innovation don’t mention the verb ‘innovating’ –They engineer, the calculate, they experiment, they iterate, etc. –Are they submerged in what innovation is … –Investigate the practice (Brown & Duguid 2001) Solo-innovators seem to have less problems –They get the idea, they design, they engineer, they produce and they use –In the process they experiment, they test, they iterate –Division of labor …! Adam Smith 1776 –Many functions, many thought worlds => it is a social “process of negotiation among disciplines” Bucciarelli 1988 => What is the transition telling us on innovating and innovation?

16 Strategy Purchasing Product Management Manufacturing ‘X’Manufacturing ‘X’ + ∂ Sales time Transition NPD-Manufacturing NPD processes Exploration Exploitation Frido Smulders

17 Foci NPD literature Rational-analytic perspective is dominant –Steps and phases –Tools and methods for development Program of requirements CAD-CAM –Bringing downstream info upstream DFX theories Explicit information exchange Structural perspective, integrated NPD Multi ‘X’ teams Parallel development (CE, IPD) Time-to-market or diffusion studies –No transition studies Transition from exploration to exploitation was never taken. Socio-interactive perspective is not there! Frido Smulders

18 Research approach Grounded Theory (Glaser & Strauss 1967, Glaser 1978, 1992, 2002) Under-researched area Discovering new theories based on empirical data Integrated research process of collecting & analyzing data: Theoretical Sampling Ongoing sampling until ‘theoretical saturation’ –Saturation means that theory sufficiently explains recorded behavior –New conceptual categories or insights at any stage of process –Written document: pause in “never ending process of generating theory” Frido Smulders

19 Schematic representation of analyzing process Empirical data Conceptual categories Properties of categories Theoretical framework Critical incidents Integration of categories Frido Smulders

20 Research process: 3 stages Scanning –Identification of symptomatic situations related to main concern of actors –Three companies: 65 actors –6 preliminary theoretical categories Focusing –Zooming in on actors on both sides of interface –2 companies, 4 projects, 14 actors –265 pages of transcripts –Total 37 theoretical categories Integrating –Inductive leap –Integrating categories => socio-interactive concept of transition Frido Smulders

21 Exploitative state: Socio-interactive perspective = Volume production New knowledge developed Explicit knowledge of drawings transformed into –Machine settings, moulds, plant layout, etc. –Assembly & testing procedures, routines Interdependent routine behavior of production people –“multi-actor, interlocking reciprocally-triggered sequences of action” (Cohen & Bacdayan 1994, p. 554) Frido Smulders

22 New construct: noetic system Noetic system (nous (gr) = mind) is network of complementary individually held mental models Mental models are deeply held internal images of how the world around us works (Senge 1990) Mental models represent person’s view on world including explicit and implicit understandings and cover knowledge structures and activity patterns (Kim 1993) Noetic system becomes a noetic template if pattern of routine actions is tightly interlocked. Frido Smulders

23 Noetic template: complementary mental models Frido Smulders

24 Routines are noetic systems in action Organizational routines Explicit, Implicit, Tacit Knowledge & behavior Noetic system Frido Smulders

25 Explorative activities Exploitative activities Product Concept Stage Product & Process Development Stage Pre-production & 0-series Stage Production Ramp-up Stage Conceptual Noetic Template Actionable Noetic Template Implantable Noetic Template Performing Noetic Template Exploration-Exploitation Transition Actor Interactions Free Exploration Focused ExplorationBounded ExplorationExtinctive Exploration Concepting Exploitation Detailing ExploitationTesting ExploitationImplementing Exploitation Maturing Noetic Template

26 Transition: absorptive capacity (Cohen & Levinthal 1990; Zahra & George 2002) Equals ‘elasticity’ of noetic system –Learning process ≈ Kolb (1984) –New knowledge, skills, attitudes in social setting ∂ old/new too large => absorptive capacity insufficient  No transition  No relation with existing knowledge  New noetic system required Frido Smulders

27 Transition: innovativeness Level of innovation is ambiguous –3M Post-it Notes, Innovation? Who’s perspective? –Transition process was difficult –iPad? Innovative? Learning –assimilating & accommodating individual and collective mental system  Innovare (Latin) to bring something new to existing situation  Innovating becomes: Individual learning in a collective and social setting that aims to develop new or adjusted noetic systems. Frido Smulders

28 Transition: integrating two ontologies Ratio-analytic ontology: content dynamics –Development of ‘tangible’ dimension –Machine settings, production & assembly line –Development of the new product Socio-interactive ontology: socio dynamics –Development of social dimension –Routines, collaborations, behavior, embedded knowledge –Development of noetic system (flip-side of the product) Frido Smulders

29 Summarizing Bridging from exploration to exploitation brings us inside the innovation process with two dimensions: –Ratio-analytic, content dynamics –Socio-interactive, socio dynamics Innovating (innovare) is conscious and unconscious socially based learning until new/adjusted performing noetic system is realized Noetic systems cover knowledge structures and organizational routines that are embedded in individual mental models Innovativeness influences content induced socio dynamic learning Frido Smulders

30 29 Smulders, Van den Broek & Van der Voort Thank you!

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