Scholars have argued that the exploitation‐exploration interaction provides a source of competi‐tive advantage beyond that provided by each individually. However, we know little about the mutual effects of exploitation and exploration on either incremental or radical innovation per‐formance. To address this gap, we examine data from 171 manufacturing firms. We find incre‐mental innovation performance is highest when exploitation interacts with an intermediary level of exploration. Radical innovation performance, however, is solely driven by exploration. A coupling with exploitation is not effective. We contribute to the extant literature, first, by disen‐tangling the interaction effects of exploitation and exploration on radical and incremental inno‐vation performance, respectively. Second, we extend extant literature that agrees that main‐taining an appropriate balance of exploitation and exploration is critical for innovation perfor‐mance and that has conceptualized this balance as symmetrical presence and magnitude of ex‐ploitation and exploration. In particular, we provide evidence in support of an asymmetric rela‐tionship.