Handbook of Research on Strategy and Foresight
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Handbook of Research on Strategy and Foresight

Edited by Laura Anna Costanzo and Robert Bradley MacKay

Drawing together a collection of 29 original chapters, the Handbook makes an invaluable contribution to theory and practice by stimulating disciplined, rigorous and imaginative enquiry into the relationship between strategy and foresight. Leading scholars in the field of strategic management are brought together to offer innovative and multi-disciplinary perspectives on the past, present and future of strategy formation and foresight. In so doing, they challenge research in four key areas: strategy and foresight processes; strategy innovation for the future; understanding the future; and strategically responding to the future.
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Chapter 19: Innovation through Ambidexterity: How to Achieve the Ambidextrous Organization

Constantinos Markides and Wenyi Chu


Constantinos Markides and Wenyi Chu Introduction The ability of a firm to exploit its current business while exploring new territory (in terms of new technologies, markets, products or business models) has long been recognized as a critical source of competitive success (Thompson, 1967; Quinn and Cameron, 1988; March, 1991; Tushman and O’Reilly, 1996; Eisenhardt and Martin, 2000). The need to achieve a ‘balance’ between these two distinct activities has been proposed in a wide range of management areas, including organization theory, managerial economics (for example, Ghemawat and Costa, 1993), international business (for example, Bartlett and Ghoshal, 1989) and strategic management (for example, Winter and Szulanski, 2001). However, achieving this balance is a ‘central paradox of administration’ (Thompson, 1967, p. 15). This is because the skills, mindsets, structures and processes required to achieve exploitation of the current business are fundamentally different and often conflict with those required to achieve exploration. For example, in a classic study, Burns and Stalker (1961) proposed that organizations developing new products (that is, exploring) should be organic, whereas organizations engaged in exploiting their existing businesses should be mechanistic. Several other studies have shown that exploration and exploitation require substantially different structures, processes, skills and strategies that appear contradictory and difficult to combine (March, 1991; Levinthal and March, 1993; Tushman and O’Reilly, 1996; Sheremata, 2000; Benner and Tushman, 2003). Organizations that are capable of achieving the appropriate balance between exploitation and exploration have been labeled ‘ambidextrous’ organizations (for example, Duncan, 1976; Tushman and...

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