Organisational Ambidexterity

Ambidexterity in general refers to the ability to do two things equally well (e.g. use of right and left hands) and organisational ambidexterity refers to the simulaneous ability to exploit existing capabilities and explore new capabilities. This is seen as paving the way for introducing both radical and incremental innovations in the marketplace. For many firms, both radical and incremental innovations are needed and it is not an ‘either/or’ choice. Exploration of new knowledge is needed to generate radical new ideas and those ideas then need to be exploited to produce short-term profits through incremental variations on the original idea. However, not all firms that attempt to be ambidextrous are successful and simultaneously engaging in both forms of innovation is not easily achieved. Indeed, it is considered one of the toughest managerial challenges. The two forms of innovation compete for scarce resources and managers are naturally inclined to make decisions that favour less risky shorter-term incremental innovations over radical innovations. The result is that blue skies type thinking frequently gets crowded out.

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