Ambidexterity = the ability both to explore and “search for new, useful adaptions”, and exploit through “the use and propagation of known adaptions”. This is vital to the survival and performance of organizations. Firms should maintain a balance between exploration and exploitation.
There has been scant attention to what makes an individual ambidexterious.
Several reasons warrant the examination of entrepreneur ambidexterity in small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs):
1. Small business have limited resource endowments. Since exploration and exploitation compete for scarce resources, attention and organizational routines, the situation is likely to ...view middle of the document...
Three fundamental modes of coping with the conflicting demands of exploration and exploitation:
1. Organizational separation: a form of spatial buffering, whereby explorative and exploitative activities are conducted simultaneously, albeit in distinct entities within the organization.
2. Temporal separation: exploration and exploitation coexist in the same organizational entity but at different points in time (long periods of exploitation and short burst of exploration)
3. Contextual separation: it resolves the tension between exploration and exploitation by suggesting that these activities permeate all functions and levels in an organization.
Ambidexterity at the individual level
The possibility that individuals can perform both exploration and exploitation tasks creates a number of challenges that need to be addressed.
Formal structural mechanisms indicate that a manager’s decision-making authority is positively related to ambidexterity. A combination of both top-down and bottom-up knowledge, or a combination of both top-down and horizontal knowledge inflows, would be of particular value for managers.
Ambidexterious chief executive officers are able to maintain a balance between exploration and exploitation. These CEOs apply three leadership principles that help their firms to grow their core business:
1. They engage a senior team around a forward-looking strategic aspiration
2. They maintain a balance between demands of innovation units and the core business at the top of the organization
3. They embrace inconsistency by maintaining multiple, and often conflicting, strategic agendas
In addition to this, there are four ambidextrous behaviors in managers:
1. Taking the initiative outside their own job roles
2. Cooperative behaviors
3. Brokering, looking to build internal linkages
Nevertheless, organizational mechanisms may be required to enable ambidexterity at the individual level. Organizational forms that build internally consistent architectures and cultures into business units are conducive to both exploration and exploitation. These organizational architectures involve highly differentiated units as well as top management integration.
Ambidexterity at individual level = ability to pursue both exploration and exploitation with equal dexterity.
* Exploitation vs exploration
* Efficiency vs flexibility
* Stability vs adaptability
* Execution vs experimentation
* Short-term optimization vs long-term development
Moreover, ambidexterity is likely to be a function of closely interrelated individual and organizational effects.
Exploration | Exploitation |
Creating variety in experience | Creating reliability in experience |
Broadening a manager’s existing knowledge base | Deepening and refining a manager’s existing knowledge base |
Creation or acquisition of new knowledge | Ability to leverage existing knowledge |