Balancing exploration and exploitation in transferring research into practice: a comparison of five knowledge translation entity archetypes

Implement Sci. 2013 Sep 5;8:104. doi: 10.1186/1748-5908-8-104.

Abstract

Background: Translating knowledge from research into clinical practice has emerged as a practice of increasing importance. This has led to the creation of new organizational entities designed to bridge knowledge between research and practice. Within the UK, the Collaborations for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) have been introduced to ensure that emphasis is placed in ensuring research is more effectively translated and implemented in clinical practice. Knowledge translation (KT) can be accomplished in various ways and is affected by the structures, activities, and coordination practices of organizations. We draw on concepts in the innovation literature--namely exploration, exploitation, and ambidexterity--to examine these structures and activities as well as the ensuing tensions between research and implementation.

Methods: Using a qualitative research approach, the study was based on 106 semi-structured, in-depth interviews with the directors, theme leads and managers, key professionals involved in research and implementation in nine CLAHRCs. Data was also collected from intensive focus group workshops.

Results: In this article we develop five archetypes for organizing KT. The results show how the various CLAHRC entities work through partnerships to create explorative research and deliver exploitative implementation. The different archetypes highlight a range of structures that can achieve ambidextrous balance as they organize activity and coordinate practice on a continuum of exploration and exploitation.

Conclusion: This work suggests that KT entities aim to reach their goals through a balance between exploration and exploitation in the support of generating new research and ensuring knowledge implementation. We highlight different organizational archetypes that support various ways to maintain ambidexterity, where both exploration and exploitation are supported in an attempt to narrow the knowledge gaps. The KT entity archetypes offer insights on strategies in structuring collaboration to facilitate an effective balance of exploration and exploitation learning in the KT process.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administrative Personnel
  • Focus Groups
  • Qualitative Research
  • Translational Research, Biomedical / methods*
  • United Kingdom