Relational Capital and Individual Exploration: Unravelling the Influence of Goal Alignment and Knowledge Acquisition
Organization Studies , Volume 36 - Issue 6 p. 809- 829
We investigate how the relational capital of a person within an organization affects the extent to which she or he conducts exploration activities. Our theory separates out a negative effect that comes from aligning goals with other organizational members from a positive effect that stems from acquiring knowledge from them. Our data from 150 members of the R&D teams of three leading R&D-intensive firms support the theoretical model. By developing and testing this theory, we contribute to the literature on exploration, which lacks understanding of the antecedents of individual exploration in organizations. We also contribute to relational capital literature, which has focused on organizational and group-level exploration, but which has shown inconsistent findings regarding the relationship between relational capital and exploration. A reason for this may be that this body of research has emphasized positive effects of relational capital for exploration only, and has not accounted for the different mechanisms that mediate the effects of relational capital on individual exploration activities. Our theory offers a more comprehensive view by explaining how relational capital may provide both benefits and liabilities to individual exploration activities.