S. (Saeedeh) Ahmadi MSc

Saeedeh Ahmadi
Rotterdam School of Management (RSM)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
ERIM PhD Candidate
Field: Strategy & Entrepreneurship
Affiliated since 2014

PhD Track Microfoundations of exploration under the condition of complexity- the role of motivation and cognition

At the intersection of strategic management and applied psychology, this PhD project focuses on motivation as a main driver of strategic preferences and behaviors in organizations. Broussard and Garrison (2004) broadly define motivation as “the attribute that moves us to do or not to do something” (p. 106). Combining theoretical arguments from organization and psychological theories , it tries to explain managers’ decision making about exploration-exploitation trade-off in response to the uncertainties that emerging technologies impose and also to explain exploratory behavior and performance outcomes which translate in to intended and unintended outcome for the organization, in response to a motivating intervention through challenging goals.

Exploration “engages individuals and organizations in search, experimentation, and variation” (Lavie et al, 2010, p. 110). It is “captured by terms such as search, variation, risk taking, experimentation, play, flexibility, discovery, innovation” (March, 1991, p. 71). Although employees in different levels play a role in organizational search and exploration, senior managers and key decision makers have a more salient role in this regard. Exploring opportunities under conditions of uncertainty and complexity requires substantial funds and considerable effort on the part of the organization (Helfat & Peteraf, 2014). Organizations need to develop new capabilities and no one plays a more important part in this than senior managers (Maritan, 2001). Orienting the organization towards exploration mode requires a dynamic decision-making process and frequent trade-offs between contrasting and conflicting agenda (Smith, Binns, & Tushman, 2010). Without the involvement of senior managers, exploration at lower levels of the organizations may backfire, taking the organization in different directions and perhaps resulting in poorer performance (Siggelkow & Rivkin, 2006; Coen & Maritan, 2010). Nevertheless, our knowledge about what makes senior managers and key decision makers more inclined to and capable of pursuing exploration is limited.

The studies try to explain the tendency of managers to exploration when they face the different levels of complex decision-making situation that emerging technology brings about, through a psychological perspective then investigate the preference of the manager for the delay in investment on an emerging technology as a choice which is shaped by his perception of the situation and the stimuli of the context. Decision to invest in new technologies is one of the most important managerial decisions that involves uncertainty, because it involves an upfront commitment of resources to a highly uncertain future outcome which could compromise the competitiveness or the very existence of the firm. To this end, motivation and capability lenses are combined to explain how this decision is a consequence of managers’ prior decision in reconciling exploration-exploitation trade-off."



Time frame
2014 -
  • S. Ahmadi, L. Berchicci & J.J.P. Jansen (2019). A Psychological Perspective On Manager's Exploration Orientation : The Role of Regulatory Focus, Regulatory Fit, and Complexity of Decisions Making.
  • S. Ahmadi (2017). Decision-making: are managers biased by their characters? RSM Discovery - Management Knowledge, 31 (3), 14-16.
  • S. Ahmadi (2016). Strategizing on disruptive technologies: organizational and managerial determinants of adaptive response- Strategic Management Society Conference-Berlin- October 2016.


Visiting address

Office: Mandeville Building T07-26
Burgemeester Oudlaan 50
3062 PA Rotterdam

Postal address

Postbus 1738
3000 DR Rotterdam