In this episode, we read the widely cited article, “Exploration and Exploitation in Organizational Learning,” published in 1991 in the journal Organization Science. In the paper, James March considered the relationships between exploration of new ways of doing things and the exploitation of accepted, standard practices for organizational learning. He did so in order to show that learning in organizations is still possible even in the presence of causal ambiguity. While the paper has been criticized for its very simplistic model of organizational learning and lack of empirical data, a strong point of the paper may be the general insight in provides about collective learning under ambiguous conditions.
What are the tradeoffs and challenges associated with balancing exploitation and exploration? What does it mean for organizational learning? Read the paper and listen to your intrepid podcasters, as we grapple with March’s ideas in Episode 19.