Examining construction contractors' innovation through the lens of exploration and exploitation

Nipuni Sumanarathna*, Steve Rowlinson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


This study investigates innovation deployment in construction contractor organisations through the lens of exploration and exploitation-learning approaches. Radical vs incremental classification of innovation has been linked with explorative and exploitative learning. Exploration is explained by radical innovation, which is the implementation of innovation in the organisational context. In contrast, exploitation is explained by i) incremental innovation, which is the utilisation of innovation and ii) continuous development of organisational activities. The learning theory demonstrates that organisations need to maintain a balance (ambidexterity) between these two learning approaches for their short-Term and long-Term survival. Following this argument, a research framework is presented to illustrate how contractor organisations exercise exploration and exploitation (as well as innovation) at project, project portfolio and organisational levels. The framework is based on the theoretical and empirical findings of prior studies which were published on highly ranked journals and conferences. A preliminary interview series with industry experts was carried out to validate the framework and shortlist potential contractor organisations as the case studies. Findings from the preliminary assessment reveal that contractors are way forward in implementing innovation and willing to share their knowledge on various newer innovation approaches. However, the client-driven nature of construction industry delays innovation of contractors, specially at project level. This is an ongoing research. As the future research direction, multiple case studies are yet to be done with the purpose of attaining holistic insights on recent innovative approaches of large-scale contractors in the Hong Kong construction industry.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAssociation of Researchers in Construction Management, ARCOM 2019 - Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference
EditorsChris Gorse, Christopher J Neilson
PublisherAssociation of Researchers in Construction Management
Number of pages10
ISBN (Electronic)9780995546349
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes
Event35th Annual Conference on Association of Researchers in Construction Management, ARCOM 2019 - Leeds, United Kingdom
Duration: 2 Sept 20194 Sept 2019


Conference35th Annual Conference on Association of Researchers in Construction Management, ARCOM 2019
Abbreviated titleARCOM 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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