Using exploratory and exploitative market learning for new product development

Namwoon Kim, Kwaku Atuahene-Gima

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    226 Scopus citations


    While the need for research on the market-learning efforts of a firm in relation to its new product development is continuously emphasized, the empirical results on this issue reported so far have been mixed. The current study contends that the inconclusive nature of the empirical evidence is mostly due to the existence of different dimensions of organizational market learning - exploratory and exploitative - and to possible different routes by which these learning dimensions are linked to new product performance. More specifically, this study argues that exploratory market learning contributes to the differentiation of the new product because it involves the firm's learning about uncertain and new opportunities through the acquisition of knowledge distant from existing organizational skills and experiences. By contrast, this study posits that exploitative market learning enhances cost efficiency in developing new products as it aims to best use the currently available market information that is closely related to existing organizational experience. This study provides empirical support for this two-dimensional scheme of organizational market learning and its consequent effects on two components of new product advantage: new product differentiation and cost efficiency. Further, given that the effectiveness of firms' strategic efforts is contingent upon the nature of the market environment, the current study examines the moderating effects of environmental dynamism and market competitiveness for this market learning - new product advantage relationship. This study is based on survey data from 157 manufacturing firms in China that encompass various industries. The empirical findings support the two-dimensional market learning efforts that increase new product differentiation and cost efficiency, respectively. The study confirms that exploratory market learning becomes more effective under a turbulent market environment and that exploitative market learning is more contributive when competitive intensity is high. It also suggests that because of their differential direct and moderating effects on new product advantage either exploratory or exploitative market learning may not be used exclusively, but the two should be implemented in parallel. Such learning implementations will help to secure both the feature and cost-based new product advantage components and will consequently lead to the new product success. The current study attempts to contribute to greater clarity and better understanding of how market learning influences new product success as it theoretically identifies and empirically validates the two forms of new product advantage as the conceptual mediator between market learning and new product performance.

    Original languageBritish English
    Pages (from-to)519-536
    Number of pages18
    JournalJournal of Product Innovation Management
    Issue number4
    StatePublished - Jul 2010


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