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Autonomy, Conformity and Organizational Learning

Author(s): Nobuyuki Hanaki | Hideo Owan

Journal: Administrative Sciences
ISSN 2076-3387

Volume: 3;
Issue: 3;
Start page: 32;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: organizational learning | exploration | exploitation | complexity | turbulence | NK landscape | ambidexterity

There is often said to be a tension between the two types of organizational learning activities, exploration and exploitation. The argument goes that the two activities are substitutes, competing for scarce resources when firms need different capabilities and management policies. We present another explanation, attributing the tension to the dynamic interactions among search, knowledge sharing, evaluation and alignment within organizations. Our results show that successful organizations tend to bifurcate into two types: those that always promote individual initiatives and build organizational strengths on individual learning and those good at assimilating the individual knowledge base and exploiting shared knowledge. Straddling the two types often fails. The intuition is that an equal mixture of individual search and assimilation slows down individual learning, while at the same time making it difficult to update organizational knowledge because individuals’ knowledge base is not sufficiently homogenized. Straddling is especially inefficient when the operation is sufficiently complex or when the business environment is sufficiently turbulent.
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