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Table 1 Key insights from select studies, 1993–2016

From: On innovating: an interview with Gautam Ahuja

Study Citations Theoretical lens Focal concept/phenomenon Key insight
Ahuja (2000a) ASQ 6570 Network research Collaboration networks, structural holes A key principle of organization design is that the optimal structure is contingent on the actions that the structure seeks to facilitate. This principle can inform what is an appropriate form of social capital in the network arena. For an organization seeking power over its buyers or suppliers, a network comprising relationships with partners with few ties to others can offer greater control over exchange partners. However, for an organization facing a common threat (such as adverse legislation) as its partners, a network comprising relationships with many interlocking and redundant ties can offer greater trust and cooperation.
Katila and Ahuja (2002) AMJ 3544 Organizational learning Search depth, search scope, new product introduction Organizations’ search for new products involves two distinct dimensions—search depth (i.e., how frequently the organization reuses its existing knowledge) and search scope (i.e., how widely the organization explores new knowledge). Organizations can differentiate themselves not only by the extent to which they explore new things (search scope), but also by the extent to which they master the old ones (search depth). Thus, search depth is an important mechanism underlying new product introduction, adding nuances to the concept of exploration versus exploitation.
Ahuja and Katila (2001) SMJ 2649 Organizational learning, resource-based view Innovation; technological acquisitions While non-technological acquisitions have a negligible impact on innovation output of organizations, technological acquisitions have significant impact. Within technological acquisitions, absolute size of the acquired knowledge base has a positive impact on innovation output, whereas relative size of the acquired knowledge base has a negative impact on innovation output.
Ahuja and Lampert (2001) SMJ 2582 Organizational learning, entrepreneurship Entrepreneurship in large corporation, breakthrough inventions Breakthrough inventions are a key mechanism by which established organizations can initiate the process of organizational renewal, and thus resolve the challenge of a capability-rigidity paradox, i.e., a situation where existing organizational capabilities provide the foundations for current competitive position, but without renewal the same capabilities run the risk of becoming rigidities constraining organization’s ability to compete. Exploration of novel, emerging technologies has a curvilinear association with subsequent breakthrough inventions, first increasing and then decreasing the probability of a breakthrough invention.
Ahuja (2000b) SMJ 2147 Network research, resource-based view Duality of collaboration Three forms of accumulated capital—technical, commercial, and social—influence an organization’s inducements and opportunities to form inter-organizational linkages. Organizations with superior technical, commercial, and social capital succeed more in inter-organizational linkages formation. However, for organizations lacking these three forms of accumulated capital, a radical technological breakthrough can still help them form inter-organizational linkages.
Ahuja and Katila (2004) SMJ 828 Resource-based view, evolutionary theory Resources origin, idiosyncratic situations Resource heterogeneity among organizations can through path-creating search processes. Organizations face idiosyncratic situations that can lead to the development of resources that improve organizational performance. When facing technological exhaustion in their idiosyncratic situations, organizations expand their scientific activities. Both the intensity of an organization’s scientific search and the diversity of its geographic search can lead to performance improvement.
Ahuja et al. (2012) ORSC 649 Network research; organization theory Organizational networks Time has a special role in the relationship between network structures and organizational performance. This relationship is driven by the main mechanisms of temporal reconstruction of social structures and the accumulation of relational content. The core idea is that evolution of any network is driven by a process where the nodes are motivated by the microfoundations (e.g., agency, opportunity, inertia, exogenous/random factor) to form, maintain, or dissolve ties. This motivation causes nodes to seek specific partners or tie patterns, which in turn leads to changes in the network (either in the network’s content or the structural dimensions at the ego- and full-network levels).
Yayavaram and Ahuja (2008) ASQ 360 Network research, organizational learning Knowledge base malleability Knowledge base malleability, defined as the knowledge base’s capacity for change, is determined by its decomposability. The decomposability of a knowledge base’s structure influences the usefulness of inventions generated from it.
Ahuja et al. (2009) SMJ 347 Network research Structural homophily, social asymmetry More central organizations in a network structure are initially more likely to form an alliance, but as the level of combined centrality increases, the effect of centrality on alliance formation diminishes. Thus, there are decreasing marginal benefits of embeddedness suggesting that incentives exist for more central organizations to form alliance with less embeddedness partners. While structural homophily (i.e., similarly embedded within the network) may explain the linkage behavior of embedded organizations, there are limits to its explanatory power in predicting the behavior of less embedded organizations.
Ahuja et al. (2005) SMJ 198 Resource-based view Managerial foresight, knowledge of imminent breakthroughs Managerial foresight is a critical element of the resource-based view. It influences organizational rent appropriation because managers can anticipate breakthrough innovations and trade on that information before the filing of patent applications.
Polidoro et al. (2011) AMJ 195 Network research Positional embeddedness, structural embeddedness The effects of network embeddedness on tie dissolution and tie formation are not similar. Positional embeddedness (network centrality) may contribute to instability of ties, whereas structural embeddedness (common partners) contributes to stability of ties. Common partners are an underlying social mechanism for maintaining order in inter-organizational relationships.
Ahuja and Yayavaram (2011) ORSC 148 Institution-based view Influence rents, institution-based view Organizations can earn supernormal profits via influence rents, i.e., by designing or changing the rules of the game (laws, regulations, and informal rules) to suit their organization’s strategic positions and interests. This principle can form the basis of an institution-based view (IBV) of strategy, which is especially relevant given the changes taking place in many institutional contexts.