Managing exploration and exploitation paradoxes in creative organisations

Eric Knight*, Will Harvey

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to address the paradox that individuals face in seeking to both generate new ideas and be committed to delivering standardised processes in a creative industry. The authors explore this tension in order to better understand how synergistic benefits are reaped at the intersection of these competing demands.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper adopts a longitudinal case study approach inside a global media organisation in the creative industries sector. Data derived from participant observations, manager interviews, administered survey instruments, and archival documentation.

Findings – The authors find that creative organisations experience explore/exploit paradoxes which are nested at three levels: knowledge, learning and motivation. Further, the authors find that managers are able to respond to competing tensions through organisational processes that allow differentiation/ integration simultaneously. These management responses are supported and sustained by both structural and contextual organisational forms.

Originality/value – First, the authors provide a clearer theoretical explanation of paradox in creative organisations by accounting for competing demands to explore and exploit through nested tensions. Second, the authors extend the understanding of management responses to these paradox by showing how managers balance both demands simultaneously rather than cumulatively over time, thereby offering insight into how managers behave over time. Third, the authors outline the supporting role of organisational form in sustaining management responses within creative organisations at the same time in order to reap synergistic benefits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)809-827
Number of pages19
JournalManagement Decision
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 18 May 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Creative industry
  • Management
  • Organizational theory
  • Paradox


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