Linking knowledge search to knowledge creation : the intermediate role of knowledge complexity

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

1 Scopus Citations
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Original languageEnglish
Journal / PublicationManagement Decision
Online published20 Jul 2022
Publication statusOnline published - 20 Jul 2022


Purpose – Knowledge search is considered a broad concept and semi-intentional behavior. The path and boundary conditions through which search strategies affect intra-organizational knowledge creation remain elusive. Drawing on recombinant search theory and knowledge-based view, the authors seek to identify knowledge complexity as an important intermediate variable between knowledge search and innovation performance, such as research and development (R&D) output and R&D output quality. A second goal of this study is to examine the moderating roles of government support and technological turbulence. 
Design/methodology/approach – The authors employed a longitudinal panel of 609 global pharmaceutical firms and obtained the firms' patent records from 1980 to 2015 for the analysis. The authors used generalized estimating equations (GEE) to evaluate the models and tested the consistency via panel fixed-effects estimations. 
Findings – The authors' findings show that organizational routine-guided search has a negative effect on knowledge complexity, while routine-changing search exerts a positive impact on knowledge complexity. Governmental support and technological turbulence moderate these relationships. Notably, knowledge complexity has an inverted U-shaped relationship with innovation performance. 
Research limitations/implications – The authors' research context, the pharmaceutical industry, may constrain the generalizability of our findings. In addition, potential types of routine-guided and routine-changing search behaviors were not considered. 
Practical implications – Despite these limitations, this study offers important implications. First, knowledge complexity transmits the effects of knowledge search on innovation performance. Practitioners should balance routine-guided and routine-changing search processes to build and manage complex knowledge. Second, a moderate level of knowledge complexity is the key to good R&D output and R&D output quality. 
Originality/value – The study identifies knowledge complexity as one important intermediate variable between knowledge search behaviors and intra-organizational knowledge creation.

Research Area(s)

  • Government support, Innovation performance, Knowledge complexity, Organizational behavior, Technological turbulence