How Information Technology Assimilation Promotes Exploratory and Exploitative Innovation in the Small- and Medium-Sized Firm Context: The Role of Contextual Ambidexterity and Knowledge Base

Ko, Wai Wai and Liu, Gordon (2019). How Information Technology Assimilation Promotes Exploratory and Exploitative Innovation in the Small- and Medium-Sized Firm Context: The Role of Contextual Ambidexterity and Knowledge Base. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 36(4) pp. 442–466.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/jpim.12486

Abstract

This research sheds new light on how information technology (IT) assimilation affects exploratory and exploitative innovation in the context of small- and medium-sized firms (SMEs). This contextualization is important in establishing the boundary conditions for the theory, as well as generating specific managerial insights for SME managers. A sample of 248 UK-based SMEs in the manufacturing industry demonstrates contextual ambidexterity (CA) mediates the relationship between IT assimilation and two types of innovation. This finding highlights that IT assimilation does not automatically promote innovation. Instead, IT assimilation represents a critical resource that enables the effective implementation of CA, which in turn affects innovation. This implies that SMEs cannot fully realize the potential of their IT assimilation and use it to enable innovation without implementing CA. Furthermore, this study differentiates between two different dimensions of knowledge base: knowledge breadth and knowledge depth. This study finds that knowledge breadth moderates the indirect IT assimilation-exploratory innovation relationship by influencing the effect of CA on exploratory innovation. Knowledge depth, on the other hand, moderates the indirect IT assimilation-exploitative innovation relationship by influencing the effect of CA on exploitative innovation. This finding implies that SMEs can benefit from their IT assimilation that enables them to engage in CA, which in turn allows them to perform innovation. However, it is apparent that the dimension of knowledge that SMEs hold internally can determine what types of innovation that they are able to perform.

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