Bart Nooteboom, born in Jakarta, Indonesia, in 1942. Ph.D. from the Erasmus University, Rotterdam. Professor of Business at the University of Groningen.
Fellow (1 September 1998 – 30 June 1999)
As a member of the theme group on innovation, I focussed my research on issues of learning in and between organisations. The central issue was the following: how can firms make efficient use of existing resources and competencies (exploitation) and at the same time develop new ones (exploration)? This is a paradoxical task: the first requires a certain amount of co-ordination and fixity of tasks, and the second requires a loosening of structure and a change of tasks. My proposal for a solution is based on a cycle of learning and discovery that is inspired by the work of Jean Piaget. One can combine exploitation with exploration by shifting exploitation to novel contexts where one encounters limitations to existing practice and insight as to what local elements one can introduce to adapt it, and, more radically what elements to combine in novel architectures. The first constitutes incremental and the latter radical innovation. The cycle is related to the ‘hermeneutic circle’: how meanings of words change in their use across different contexts of discourse. The cycle is elaborated in terms of scripts, on multiple levels of individuals, organisations and industries. This approach is proposed to go beyond the evolutionary view of industries and innovation.