Purpose: This exploratory study develops insights into how inter-organizational projects can be part of a process of intra-organizational business model innovation in an incumbent firm.
Design/Methodology/Approach: The present study is based on a longitudinal case study of an asset-based logistics intermediary. The case study focuses on four instances of inter-organizational projects in a port system.
Following an abductive logic, the empirical findings result in a conceptualization of business model innovation that describes how to strike a balance between exploration and exploitation across intra- and inter-organizational levels.
Findings: We present a novel conceptualization of business model innovation as a process that bridges the exploration and exploitation of business opportunities by means of organizational integration within value networks.
Originality/Value: Business model innovation entails both exploration and exploitation of business opportunities.
However, as stated by Levinthal and March (1993), prior experience tends to trap firms in patterns of competences that limit future balancing of exploration and exploitation. Based on the findings of a real-time case study, we suggest how firms can protect themselves against trapping by creating contexts of exploration and exploitation that span organizational boundaries. In doing so, we respond to the call put forward by Wilden et al.
(2018) for research on how institutional context affects the exploration-exploitation balance, which represents
a research gap. Addressing this research gap from a business model perspective represents a novel discourse in business model innovation.
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