, , , , , , , , , , ,


Exploration vs. exploitation is a common thread amongst top strategy and management thinkers. Exploration is aimed at the future (strategy, innovation) while exploitation is more aligned with business operations, i.e. efficiency. Does this point to a unified management theory?

Here is the reoccurring thread in the words of top management thinkers:

Roger Martin (design thinking) validity vs. reliability,
David Hurst (ecology of leadership) exploration vs. exploitation,
Peter Drucker (management) doing the right thing vs. doing things right,
Russell Ackoff (systems thinking) effectiveness vs. efficiency,
Dave Snowden (complexity) exploration/sense-making vs. exploitation,
Peter Checkland (management) hard vs. soft systems
Clay Christensen (innovation): empowering vs. sustaining innovation
Fredmund Malik (cybernetics): managing the new vs. managing the old
Erik Hollnagel (resilience engineering) thoroughness vs. efficiency

This basic dual dichotomy seems to me to be more than a lucky coincidence, particularly as all evidence points to these thinkers arriving at this foundational insight independently. Furthermore, there seems to be implied agreement that the left side of this most basic management “equation” (exploration) has something to do with complexity, design, and systems thinking. Is this all pointing towards a unified theory of management? And furthermore, is complexity intrinsically tied to the creative (design) act?