From Resources to Radical Innovation: A Study of the Contingency Role of Information Search and Strategy Types
- Alumni, Research, Social Sciences, Students, Teaching
This study investigates the non-obvious interrelationship between slack resources and radical innovation. While organizational slack and innovation literature has implicitly recognized a link between these constructs, at least two important aspects of their relationship have been overlooked. First, little attention has been paid to the mechanisms by which slack resources become beneficial for radical innovation. Drawing on information search and organizational learning theories, we propose distal search activity – searching for information outside the current knowledge domain of the firm – as a mediating variable between slack resources and radical innovation. Second, little consideration has been given to the strategic orientation of the firm as the context in which slack resources are deployed to enhance radical innovation. Adopting Miles and Snow’s typology of strategic archetypes, we propose a moderating role of strategy in the slack resources-distal search-radical innovation chain of relations. We tested our hypotheses on a sample of Chinese high-technology firms, using multiple informant survey data and regression analysis. Our results indicate that slack resources are positively related to radical innovation, and that this relationship is partially mediated by distal search. Thus, there appear to be two routes (one direct, one indirect) to transform slack resources into radical innovation. Further, moderation analysis shows that the effect of slack resources on distal search is strongest among analyzers, while the effect of distal search on radical innovation is strongest among defenders. In sum, our results suggest that analyzers are relatively more dependent on the amount of slack resources compared to other strategy types, that is, resource constraints would have a more negative effect on analyzers. We discuss theoretical and managerial implications of our study and conclude by suggesting future research opportunities.