Ambidexterity: a possible balance to manage complexity

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The present article originates from the effort to answer the following question: is it possible for an organizational structure to steer between organizational routines and Black Swans? (Taleb, 2007). Unexpected, unique and low-frequency events are “unknown variable” that, despite the planning and precautions deployed, catch an organization off-guard, and might have catastrophic consequences. Unexpected events impact organizations, undermining the knowledge and redefining the list of competences that an organization needs in order to be competitive. The main goal of the present article is to shed light on the role and the challenges that firms undertake in their defining moments of adaptation of their organizational assets – the structure –. The rational pattern of adaptation is exemplified by the use of ambidextrous organizational structures, which focus on activities that can be defined as exploration and exploitation. Within the analysis of “the science of complexity”, parallels, paradoxes and metaphors representing a synthesis of a largely shared doctrine will be investigated: firms need to utilize known variables, or sometimes unknown ones, that are inevitably complex, in order to find the right fit, react swiftly to change, successfully compete, and obtain results.

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