External search strategies: The role of innovation objectives and specialization
Firms are increasingly competing in an open innovation environment. Search strategies for external knowledge therefore become decisive for firms' success. Existing research distinguishes between breadth (diversity) and depth (intensity) with which firms deal with external knowledge sources. However, relatively little is known about how mangers can selectively strengthen one of these dimensions. We argue conceptually that the effect of breadth and depth of a research strategy on the innovation performance depends on (1) the type of innovation objectives (explorative vs. exploitative innovation objectives) and (2) the nature of the firm's orientation in drawing on external knowledge (science-based or market-based orientation). We test these hypotheses empirically for a sample of 1,434 manufacturing firms in Germany. Our results show that explorative innovation objectives strengthen the effect of breadth on innovation performance while exploitive objectives increase the depth. Moreover, we find that market-driven strategy favours breadth while science-driven strategy is more prevalent for depth search strategy.