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What is organizational ambidexterity?

Maria Birnbaum
Social Media Coordinator & Copywriter

Navigating change with organizational ambidexterity

Why is organizational ambidexterity crucial in the modern business landscape

Ambidexterity traditionally refers to the ability to use both hands with equal skill. In the business context, it describes the capacity to balance and excel in both exploration and exploitation activities. As Dr. Maximilian Lude explains in this video, organizational ambidexterity is a company's ability to optimize its existing core competencies while simultaneously exploring new opportunities.

You can envision it like an acrobat balancing on two ropes at once: one side represents efficiency, and the other innovation. Exploitation involves leveraging and enhancing existing resources and capabilities to maximize efficiency, while exploration entails testing new markets and products to foster innovation.

Exploration encompasses innovation and experimenting with new ideas, while exploitation focuses on refining and enhancing existing capabilities, processes, and products.

The interest in and research on this topic have exploded over the past 20 years. Let us take a closer look.

Why is organizational ambidexterity more important than ever before?

  1. Rapid technological advancements: The fast pace of technological change demands that organizations constantly innovate to stay relevant. Companies need to explore new technologies while simultaneously leveraging their current technological assets to maximize efficiency and productivity.
  2. Increased competition: Globalization has heightened competition across industries. To gain a competitive edge, businesses must skillfully explore new markets and opportunities while maintaining and improving their current operations.
  3. Economic uncertainty: The global economy's unpredictable nature requires a flexible approach. Companies that can pivot between exploration and exploitation are better equipped to handle economic fluctuations and unforeseen challenges.
  4. Changing consumer preferences: Consumer expectations and preferences evolve rapidly. Businesses must innovate to meet new demands while leveraging their existing products and services to maintain their customers' loyalty.
  5. Sustainability and social responsibility: As the focus on sustainability and social impact grows, organizations must explore sustainable practices and solutions while integrating them into their established operations. Balancing these objectives requires ambidextrous capabilities.

Let’s talk about how to develop ambidextrous leadership

As we have learned so far, the core idea of ambidexterity is that leaders and their teams must build two entirely different organizational structures simultaneously. These can be envisioned as two fundamentally distinct systems: one for exploration and one for exploitation. The key to our understanding of ambidexterity is recognizing that these systems are inherently inconsistent. Leaders must consistently embrace these inconsistencies and build these divergent structures concurrently to achieve success today and tomorrow.

For leaders and their teams, clarity about the company’s identity is crucial for winning both now and in the future. While establishing ambidextrous structures might be straightforward, the critical factor that determines success or failure is the leader’s and the team's ability to embrace contradictions and paradoxes. The competency to be comfortable with inconsistency and to consistently navigate these contradictions is what defines the most successful ambidextrous organizations.

To foster organizational ambidexterity, leaders should:

  • Cultivate a dual mindset: Encourage teams to think both creatively and pragmatically. This dual approach allows for simultaneous innovation and optimization.
  • Promote a culture of learning: Create an environment where continuous learning and experimentation are valued. Encourage employees to seek new knowledge and apply it to improve existing processes.
  • Implement flexible structures: Adopt organizational structures that support both exploration and exploitation. This might involve creating dedicated teams for innovation while ensuring other teams focus on refining core processes.
  • Balance risk and stability: Effective leaders manage the tension between taking risks and ensuring stability. They provide resources for innovative projects while maintaining the stability of established processes.
  • Encourage collaboration: Foster cross-functional collaboration to integrate diverse perspectives. Collaboration helps bridge the gap between new ideas and practical implementation.

Become an ambidextrous business leader with Tomorrow University

In conclusion, organizational ambidexterity is crucial for modern companies to navigate the complexities of today’s business landscape. By balancing exploration and exploitation, organizations can drive innovation, remain competitive, and achieve long-term success.

If you want to become an ambidextrous business leader, explore our programs at Tomorrow University. Learn more about our Impact MBA, Master's program, or Impact Certificates on Leadership and how you can be part of the next generation of leaders driving progress and innovation.

About Dr. Maximilian Lude

Expertise in innovation and strategy

Dr. Maximilian Lude, Professor of Innovation & Strategy and program director of Responsible Entrepreneurship & Management at Tomorrow University, focuses on the nexus of innovation and marketing, including business model innovation and innovation culture, with a particular interest in SMEs and family firms. His work has been published in reputable journals like Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice and the Journal of Business Research. Additionally, Maximilian contributes as a reviewer and editorial board member for several academic journals. He also leads philoneos GmbH, a Munich-based consultancy specializing in strategy and innovation for family businesses.

Read more about Max’s work here, and follow him on LinkedIn here.


Ambidextrie im Mittelstand," LinkedIn Post by Dr. Maximilian Lude.

Bechthold, L., Lude, M., & Prügl, R. (2021). "Crisis Favors the Prepared Firm: How Organizational Ambidexterity Relates to Perceptions of Organizational Resilience." IGI Global.

Tushman, M. L. (2020). "Ambidextrie Gestern und Heute." Fachmagazin Zeitschrift Organisations Entwicklung, 4/2020, pp. 4–9.

Maria Birnbaum
Social Media Coordinator & Copywriter
Maria Birnbaum
Social Media Coordinator & Copywriter

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