In this post, we’ll explore the strategies of exploitation and exploration, including definitions, distinguishing the differences, assessing which strategy is most effective at maximising success and more.
Exploitation Versus Exploration
Both exploitation and exploration are two executive functions of the mind which direct our focus. They are two opposing ways of managing our time and energy and as a consequence, there is a constant tension between them.
What Is Exploitation?
Exploitation is about efficiency. It refers to spending time and energy on existing recourses to achieve a specific outcome.
An example of exploitation in one’s personal life would be refining an existing strategy to maximise weight loss. An example of exploitation in one’s professional life would be refining an existing product to maximise sales.
What Is Exploration?
Exploration is about flexibility. It refers to spending time and energy on new recourses to achieve a specific outcome.
An example of exploration in one’s personal life would be creating a new strategy to maximise weight loss. An example of exploration in one’s professional life would be creating a new product to maximise sales.
Which Is Better?
To answer this question, we can look to the wisdom of nature, more specifically, honeybees.
Regardless of the current nectar resources available, foraging honeybees will find virtually any viable new nectar resource with great efficiency and then return to the hive to inform the other bees how far the nectar is, its direction from the hive (in relation to the sun) and the quantity of nectar available.
In other words, honeybees leverage both exploitation ― of existing nectar resources ― and also exploration ― of new nectar resources.
The Key To Success
In order to survive, all complex systems, from beehives to businesses, require balancing the time and energy spent on exploitation against the time and energy spent on exploration.
Therefore, the key to success, both personally and professionally, is to harness a balance of both and exploitation and exploration.
Both exploitation and exploration work to direct our time and energy. While exploitation is about optimising existing recourses, exploration is about creating new recourses, as a way to achieve a specific outcome.
The key to achieving success in both one’s personal and professional life is finding the proper balance between the two forces.
As with most things in life, balance is the way.