- The trade-off between the need to obtain new knowledge and the need to use that knowledge to improve performance is one of the most basic trade-offs in nature, and optimal performance usually requires some balance between exploratory and exploitative behaviors. Researchers in many disciplines have been searching for the optimal solution to this dilemma. Here we present a novel model in which the exploration strategy itself is dynamic and varies with time in order to optimize a definite goal, such as the acquisition of energy, money, or prestige. Our model produced four very distinct phases: Knowledge establishment, Knowledge accumulation, Knowledge maintenance, and Knowledge exploitation, giving rise to a multidisciplinary framework that applies equally to humans, animals, and organizations. The framework can be used to explain a multitude of phenomena in various disciplines, such as the movement of animals in novel landscapes, the most efficient resource allocation for a start-up company, or the effects of old age on knowledge acquisition in humans.