Knowledge networks and ambidextrous learning: What is the impact on innovation performance?

Main Article Content

Xiaoli Li
Kun Li


Knowledge networks have become a critical factor in the development of innovation. However, most studies focus on the innovation benefits derived from network embedding, and there are fewer studies on firms’ knowledge networks from the perspective of feature attributes. This study analyzes the direct and interactive effects of knowledge diversity and the combination of knowledge potential on innovation performance. The research also explores how the complementarity of ambidextrous learning affects the relationship between knowledge networks and innovation performance. The empirical analysis is based on panel data from 116 firms in China’s automotive manufacturing industry from 2010-2018. The results processed by the fixed effects negative binomial regression model indicate that the combinatorial potential of knowledge has an inverted U-shaped relationship with firm innovation performance, and knowledge diversity has a positive effect on firm innovation performance. There is an interactive effect between knowledge combination potential and knowledge diversity, and their mutual coordination improves firm innovation performance. The complementarity of ambidextrous learning significantly and positively moderates the positive relationship between the combination potential of knowledge and firm innovation performance.


Download data is not yet available.


Metrics Loading ...

Article Details

How to Cite
LI, X.; LI, K. Knowledge networks and ambidextrous learning: What is the impact on innovation performance?. RAE - Revista de Administracao de Empresas , [S. l.], v. 63, n. 6, p. e2022–0105, 2023. DOI: 10.1590/S0034-759020230602. Disponível em: Acesso em: 14 jun. 2024.


Ahuja, G., & Katila, R. (2001). Technological acquisitions and the innovation performance of acquiring firms: A longitudinal study. Strategic Management Journal, 22(3), 197-220.

Brennecke, J., & Rank, O. (2017). The firm’s knowledge network and the transfer of advice among corporate inventors: A multilevel network study. Research Policy, 46(4), 768-783.

Cao, Q., Gedajlovic, E., & Zhang, H. (2009). Unpacking organizational ambidexterity: Dimensions, contingencies, and synergistic effects. Organization Science, 20(4), 781-796.

Carnabuci, G., & Bruggeman, J. (2009). Knowledge specialization, knowledge brokerage and the uneven growth of technology domains. Social Forces, 88(2), 607-641.

Carnabuci, G., & Operti, E. (2013). Where do firms’ recombinant capabilities come from? Intraorganizational networks, knowledge, and firms’ ability to innovate through technological recombination. Strategic Management Journal, 34(13), 1591-1613.

Cheng, H., Xu, X., Li, Z., & Zhang, Z. (2022). The synergy of inventor cooperative network dual embeddedness and firm innovation: The mediating role of ambidextrous learning. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, 1-16.

Cohen, W. M., & Levinthal, D. A. (1990). Absorptive capacity: A new perspective on learning and innovation. Administrative Science Quarterly, 128-152.

Colombo, M. G., Doganova, L., Piva, E., D’Adda, D., & Mustar, P. (2015). Hybrid alliances and radical innovation: The performance implications of integrating exploration and exploitation. The Journal of Technology Transfer, 40(4), 696-722.

Dai, H., Zeng, D., Qualls, W. J., & Li, J. (2018). Do social ties matter for the emergence of dominant design? The moderating roles of technological turbulence and IRP enforcement. Journal of Engineering and Technology Management, 47, 96-109.

Dong, J. Q., & Yang, C. H. (2016). Being central is a double-edged sword: Knowledge network centrality and new product development in US pharmaceutical industry. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 113(1), 379-385.

Enkel, E., Heil, S., Hengstler, M., & Wirth, H. (2017). Exploratory and exploitative innovation: To what extent do the dimensions of individual level absorptive capacity contribute? Technovation, 60, 29-38.

Ensign, P. C., Lin, C. D., Chreim, S., & Persaud, A. (2014). Proximity, knowledge transfer, and innovation in technology-based mergers and acquisitions. International Journal of Technology Management, 66(1), 1-31.

Fang, S. C., Wang, M. C., & Chen, P. C. (2017). The influence of knowledge networks on a firm’s innovative performance. Journal of Management & Organization, 23(1), 22-45.

Fleming, L. (2001). Recombinant uncertainty in technological search. Management Science, 47(1), 117-132.

Fleming, L., Mingo, S., & Chen, D. (2007). Collaborative brokerage, generative creativity, and creative success. Administrative Science Quarterly, 52(3), 443-475.

Granstrand, O. (1998). Towards a theory of the technology-based firm. Research Policy, 27(5), 465-489.

Guan, J., Zhang, J., & Yan, Y. (2017). A dynamic perspective on diversities and network change: Partner entry, exit and persistence. International Journal of Technology Management, 74(1-4), 221-242.

Gupta, A. K., Smith, K. G., & Shalley, C. E. (2006). The interplay between exploration and exploitation. Academy of Management Journal, 49(4), 693-706.

Hu, Q., Li, X., & Tang, W. (2019). Research on the influence mechanism of cognitive distance and social distance between supply chain enterprises on cooperative innovation performance. Economic Survey, 36(3), 110-117.

Jiao, J., Xu, Y., Li, J., & Yang, R. (2021). The evolution of a collaboration network and its impact on innovation performance under the background of government-funded support: An empirical study in the Chinese wind power sector. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 28(1), 915-935.

Jin, X., Wang, J., Chen, S., & Wang, T. (2015). A study of the relationship between the knowledge base and the innovation performance under the organizational slack regulating. Management Decision, 53(10), 2202-2225.

Jung, S., Kim, K., & Lee, C. (2021). The nature of ICT in technology convergence: A knowledge-based network analysis. Plos One, 16(7), e0254424.

Kash, D. E., & Rycoft, R. W. (2000). Patterns of innovating complex technologies: A framework for adaptive network strategies. Research Policy, 29(7-8), 819-831.

Katila, R., & Ahuja, G. (2002). Something old, something new: A longitudinal study of search behavior and new product introduction. Academy of Management Journal, 45(6), 1183-1194.

Li, N., Lin, R., & Xie, Z. (2020). Research on impact mechanism of exploratory innovation under multiple embedded in knowledge network and cooperation network. Studies in Science of Science, 38(1), 169-179.

Li, P., & Jian, L. (2022). Network structure, knowledge base and enterprise innovation performance. Complex Systems and Complexity Science, 19(02), 31-38.

Li, X., Li, K., & Zhou, H. (2022). Impact of inventor’s cooperation network on ambidextrous innovation in Chinese AI enterprises. Sustainability, 14(16), 9996.

Mancusi, M. L. (2008). International spillovers and absorptive capacity: A cross-country cross-sector analysis based on patents and citations. Journal of International Economics, 76(2), 155-165.

March, J. G. (1991). Exploration and exploitation in organizational learning. Organization Science, 2(1), 71-87.

Marín-Idárraga, D. A., & Cuartas-Marin, J. C. (2019). Relationship between innovation and performance: Impact of competitive intensity and organizational slack. RAE-Revista de Administração de Empresas, 59, 95-107.

Marín‐Idárraga, D. A., Gonzalez, J. M. H., & Medina, C. C. (2016). The antecedents of Exploitation‐Exploration and their relationship with innovation: A study of managers’ cognitive maps. Creativity and Innovation Management, 25(1), 18-37.

Marrocu, E., Paci, R., & Usai, S. (2013). Proximity, networking and knowledge production in Europe: What lessons for innovation policy? Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 80(8), 1484-1498.

Ning, L., & Guo, R. (2022). Technological diversification to green domains: Technological relatedness, invention impact and knowledge integration capabilities. Research Policy, 51(1), 104406.

Phelps, C. C. (2010). A longitudinal study of the influence of alliance network structure and composition on firm exploratory innovation. Academy of Management Journal, 53(4), 890-913.

Quintana-García, C., & Benavides-Velasco, C. A. (2008). Innovative competence, exploration and exploitation: The influence of technological diversification. Research Policy, 37(3), 492-507.

Rojas, M. G. A., Solis, E. R. R., & Zhu, J. J. (2018). Innovation and network multiplexity: R&D and the concurrent effects of two collaboration networks in an emerging economy. Research Policy, 47(6), 1111-1124.

Sampson, R. C. (2007). R&D alliances and firm performance: The impact of technological diversity and alliance organization on innovation. Academy of Management Journal, 50(2), 364-386.

Shi, X., Zhang, Q., & Zheng, Z. (2019). The double-edged sword of external search in collaboration networks: Embeddedness in knowledge networks as moderators. Journal of Knowledge Management, 23(10), 2135-2160.

Sun, Y., & Gong, X. (2020). Superior position equal to greater influence? The moderating role of technological complexity. Journal of Manufacturing Technology Management, 31(7), 1457-1480.

Venkatraman, N. (1989). The concept of fit in strategy research: Toward verbal and statistical correspondence. Academy of Management Review, 14(3), 423-444.

Wang, C., Rodan, S., Fruin, M., & Xu, X. (2014). Knowledge networks, collaboration networks, and exploratory innovation. Academy of Management Journal, 57(2), 484-514.

Wang, J., Yang, N., & Guo, M. (2021). How social capital influences innovation outputs: An empirical study of the smartphone field. Innovation, 23(4), 449-469.

Wang, M. C., Chen, P. C., & Fang, S. C. (2018). A critical view of knowledge networks and innovation performance: The mediation role of firms’ knowledge integration capability. Journal of Business Research, 88, 222-233.

Wang, P., & Wang, Y. (2018). The characteristics of knowledge components and its effect on inventors’ knowledge combination behavior: From the knowledge network perspective. Business and Management Journal, 40(05), 92-107.

Wanzenböck, I., & Piribauer, P. (2018). R&D networks and regional knowledge production in Europe: Evidence from a space‐time model. Papers in Regional Science, 97, S1-S24.

Wei, Z., Yi, Y., & Guo, H. (2014). Organizational learning ambidexterity, strategic flexibility, and new product development. Journal of Product Innovation Management, 31(4), 832-847.

Wu, T., Chen, B., Shao, Y., & Lu, H. (2021). Enable digital transformation: Entrepreneurial leadership, ambidextrous learning and organisational performance. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, 33(12), 1389-1403.

Xie, X., Wu, Y., & Devece, C. (2022). Is collaborative innovation a double-edged sword for firms? The contingent role of ambidextrous learning and TMT shared vision. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 175, 121340.

Xu, L., Li, J., & Zeng, D. (2017). How does knowledge network affect a firm’s explorative innovation? The contingent role of R&D collaborations. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, 29(9), 973-987.

Xu, L., Li, J., & Zhou, X. (2019). Exploring new knowledge through research collaboration: The moderation of the global and local cohesion of knowledge networks. The Journal of Technology Transfer, 44(3), 822-849.

Xu, L., & Zeng, D. (2021). When does the diverse partnership of R&D alliances promote new product development? The contingent effect of the knowledge base. Technology in Society, 65, 101590.

Yao, L., Li, J., & Li, J. (2020). Urban innovation and intercity patent collaboration: A network analysis of China’s national innovation system. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 160, 120185.

Yao, Y., Gao, H., & Sun, F. (2020). The impact of dual network structure on firm performance: The moderating effect of innovation strategy. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, 32(9), 1020-1034.

Yayavaram, S., & Ahuja, G. (2008). Decomposability in knowledge structures and its impact on the usefulness of inventions and knowledge-base malleability. Administrative Science Quarterly, 53(2), 333-362.

Yayavaram, S., & Chen, W. R. (2015). Changes in firm knowledge couplings and firm innovation performance: The moderating role of technological complexity. Strategic Management Journal, 36(3), 377-396.

Zahra, S. A., Ireland, R. D., & Hitt, M. A. (2000). International expansion by new venture firms: International diversity, mode of market entry, technological learning, and performance. Academy of Management Journal, 43(5), 925-950.

Zhao, X., Shao, F., & Wu, C. (2019). Do stakeholder relationships matter? An empirical study of exploration, exploitation and firm performance. Management Decision, 59(4), 764-786.

Zhang, S., Zhang, N., Zhu, S., & Liu, F. (2020). A foot in two camps or your undivided attention? The impact of intra-and inter-community collaboration on firm innovation performance. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, 32(7), 753-768.

Zhang, Z., & Luo, T. (2020). Knowledge structure, network structure, exploitative and exploratory innovations. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, 32(6), 666-682.

Zhu, J., Ning, H., & You, J. (2022). The influence of the structural features of patent cooperation network on enterprise exploratory innovation: A case study of the aviation equipment manufacturing enterprises. Science and Technology Management Research, 42(9), 128-135.