Previous studies have provided valuable insights into how environmental and organizational factors may influence levels of explorative and exploitative innovation in firms. At the same time, scholars suggest that individual characteristics, such as cognitive and behavioural inclinations of top executives, might also have significant impact on the ability of a firm to engage in explorative and exploitative activities. The importance of the CEO is of interest, especially in medium-sized companies, where the CEO appears to be most influential. Very few studies, however, have quantitatively examined the relationship between individual characteristics of top managers and firm-level exploration and exploitation. Most of the existing research focuses on observable managerial characteristics and the composition of top management teams. Therefore, some important psychological issues may have been bypassed. This study complements prior research in two fundamental ways. First, whereas previous studies focus on extrinsic organizational factors that influence individual exploration and exploitation, we rely on insights from cognitive psychology to hypothesize a relationship between intrinsic factors (i.e., cognitive style) and individuals' tendency for exploration versus exploitation. Second, whereas existing research remains silent on the implications of individual CEO characteristics for firm performance, we hypothesize a relationship between CEOs' tendency for exploration or exploitation and firm-level innovation performance.