Abstract

Two competing views exist on the most effective strategy for improving the successful exploration of new knowledge, while mitigating the associated high levels of uncertainty and failure. One view advocates pursuing an ambidextrous strategy, defined as the simultaneous pursuit of both exploration and exploitation. However, another view suggests that, instead of pursuing exploitation to reduce the risks of exploration, innovators should embrace the uncertainty associated with exploration. It is argued that, while exploration may lead to failure in the short- term, failures improve the likelihood of generating innovation breakthroughs in the long-term. This notion is promoted in the often-cited mantra: “fail fast, fail often”. However, while the benefits of learning from failure are lauded, empirical evidence to support this claim is sparse. This paper contributes to a more nuanced understanding of the relationship between ambidexterity and learning from failure.

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