Ambidextrous Organization

/ˌæm.bɪˈdek.strəs ˌɔːr.ɡən.əˈzeɪ.ʃən/

An organization, which demonstrably balances today’s business demands (exploitation) whilst being adaptive to changes in the external environment by innovating towards new products, services, and business models, which break with old industry logic and transcend industry boundaries (exploration).

The ‘Ambidextrous Organization’ is an organizational development concept coined by R. Duncan . It indicates an organization’s ability to be aligned and efficient in its management of today’s business demands, as well as being adaptive to changes in the external environment.

Ambidexterity is achieved by balancing ‘exploration’ (search, variation, risk-taking, experimentation, flexibility, discovery or innovation) with ‘exploitation’ (refinement, choice, production, efficiency, selection, implementation, and execution) .

Since the late 2000s, many companies try to follow this notion by strictly separating everyday exploitation work from their exploration activities, e.g. via setting up innovation centers or labs. They often do so however without setting up adequate exchange mechanisms between the two ends of the spectrum. Think about innovation labs, throwing early innovation concepts over the fence, which then suffer from the ‘not invented here’ syndrome in the core organization. Thus any ambidextrous org structure needs processes and vehicles for a transition from exploration to exploitation — which some call scale-up processes/vehicles — too .


Tushman, M., & O’Reilly, C. (2004). The ambidextrous Organization: Managing evolutionary and revolutionary Change. In M. Tushman & P. Anderson (Eds.), Managing Strategic Innovation and Change: A Collection of Readings (2nd ed., pp. 276–291). Oxford University Press.
Mattes, F., & Ohr, D. R.-C. (2018). Scaling-up Corporate Startups: Turn innovation concepts into business impact. Independently published.
March, J. G. (1991). Exploration and Exploitation in Organizational Learning. Organization Science, 2(1), 71–87. JSTOR.
Duncan, R. B. (1976). The ambidextrous organization: Designing dual structures for innovation. In R. H. Kilmann, L. R. Pondy, & D. Slevin (Eds.), The management of organization design: Strategies and implementation. (pp. 167–188). North Holland.