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Search broadly or search narrowly? Role of knowledge search strategy in innovation performance

Jian Li (College of Business Administration, Hunan University, Changsha, China)
Yishu Li (College of Business Administration, Hunan University, Changsha, China)
Yue Yu (School of Management, Hunan University of Commerce, Changsha, China)
Ling Yuan (College of Business Administration, Hunan University, Changsha, China)

Journal of Knowledge Management

ISSN: 1367-3270

Article publication date: 25 April 2019

Issue publication date: 17 June 2019

1164

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to shed some new light on the mixed findings of previous empirical studies on the effect of knowledge search breadth (SB) on firms’ 2019 innovation performance (IP).

Design/methodology/approach

The paper adopts a contingent approach that examines the two organizational factors in determining the shape of the SB-IP curve. The empirical study is based on survey data gathered from 414 Chinese firms. In dealing with concerns on simultaneity and reverse causality, perceived time-lag between outcome variable and explanatory variables was introduced.

Findings

This study reveals that knowledge novelty and absorptive capacity are two functions underlying the SB-IP relationship. The results also indicate that innovation orientation and firm age moderate the SB-IP relationship in different ways: the more innovation-oriented the firm, the steeper the inverted U-shaped SB-IP relationship will be, while the older the firm, the flatter the SB-IP relationship will be. Interestingly, there is strong evidence for the shape-flip phenomenon of the SB-IP curve: SB has an inverted U-shaped effect on IP when a firm is young; however, SB has a U-shaped effect when the firm is older than 37 years.

Originality/value

By revealing two underlying functions and two moderators of the association between SB and IP at the firm level, this paper contributes to shed some new light to the mixed results reported by previous empirical studies that have examined the effect of knowledge search on firm innovation.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful to Editor Manlio Del Giudice, the Associate Editor and the three anonymous referees for their very insightful comments and constructive suggestions on earlier versions of this manuscript. We thank Xin Zhou for his assistance in data analysis. This research is funded by the National Science Foundation of China (grant no. 71502056, 71673082) and Hunan Provincial Science and Technology Department (grant on. 2018JJ3083). The usual disclaimer applies.

Citation

Li, J., Li, Y., Yu, Y. and Yuan, L. (2019), "Search broadly or search narrowly? Role of knowledge search strategy in innovation performance", Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 23 No. 5, pp. 809-835. https://doi.org/10.1108/JKM-06-2018-0386

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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