The Challenges Encountered by the Managers of Exploratory Units in Structurally Ambidextrous Organizations
Structural ambidexterity is one possible solution for companies that aim to engage in exploitative and exploratory activities simultaneously, but it induces several challenges, writes FOCUS students Sindija Liepina and Cornelia Lindqvist.
Structural ambidexterity is well researched as one of the solutions on how companies can engage in exploitative and exploratory activities simultaneously. Nevertheless, the nature of structural ambidexterity induces several challenges for the firms who chose to adopt it.
Through in-depth interviews with three well-known companies, we have explored the challenges encountered by the managers of exploratory units in structurally ambidextrous organizations, as well as how these challenges are handled.
Our main findings demonstrate that the key challenges encountered by the managers of exploratory units when delivering innovation include perceived lack of resources and tolerance for failure, tension between units, uncertainty, risk aversion, resistance to change, and short-term focus.
In addition, we find that a recurring set of beliefs among the managers of exploratory units include the notion that the success of innovation is highly dependent on trust from top management and an optimal balance between autonomy and attention.
We further observe that in order to handle the challenges, the managers of exploratory units rely on various alternative innovation management tools, adapt elements of entrepreneurial orientation and collaborate with external parties. These tools appear to allow the exploratory unit to continue delivering innovation, even when the challenges are significant.
By highlighting the anticipated challenges and tools used to handle them, these findings are relevant for practitioners attempting to manage exploratory units and deliver innovation projects in ambidextrous organizations.