Wellsprings of Creation: How Perturbation Sustains Exploration in Mature Organizations (Harvard Business School Organizational Behavior Unit Working Paper No. 09-011)

Upton, David, Brunner, David, Staats, Bradley and Tushman, Michael (2010) Wellsprings of Creation: How Perturbation Sustains Exploration in Mature Organizations (Harvard Business School Organizational Behavior Unit Working Paper No. 09-011). Harvard Business School.

Abstract

Organizations struggle to balance simultaneous imperatives to exploit and explore, yet theorists differ as to whether exploitation undermines or enhances exploration. The debate reflects a gap: the missing theoretical mechanism by which organizations break free of old routines and discover new ones. We propose that the missing link is perturbation: novel stimuli that disrupt the execution of specialized routines. Perturbation creates opportunities for organizations to invoke exploratory, general-purpose problem-solving routines. In mature organizations, exogenous perturbations become increasingly scarce to the point that exploration is stifled and inertia sets in. We theorize that mature organizations can sustain exploration by deliberately inducing perturbations in their own processes. Our theory yields testable hypotheses about the relationships between exploitation, perturbation, and exploration. We provide illustrations from The Toyota Motor Company to show how deliberate perturbation enables efficient exploration in the midst of intense exploitation.

Item Type: Other Working Paper
Keywords: organizational development
Subject(s): Operations management
Centre: Faculty of Operations Management
Date Deposited: 04 Jul 2012 14:04
Last Modified: 23 Oct 2015 14:07
URI: http://eureka.sbs.ox.ac.uk/id/eprint/3307

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