Article | California Management Review

Organizational Ambidexterity in Action: How Managers Explore and Exploit

by Charles A. O'Reilly III and Michael L. Tushman


Dynamic capabilities have been proposed as a useful way to understand how organizations are able to adapt to changes in technology and markets. Organizational ambidexterity, the ability of senior managers to seize opportunities through the orchestration and integration of existing assets to overcome inertia and path dependence, is a core dynamic capability. While promising, research on dynamic capabilities and ambidexterity has not yet been able to specify the specific mechanisms through which senior managers are actually able to reallocate resources and reconfigure assets to simultaneously explore and exploit. Using interviews and qualitative case studies from thirteen organizations, this article explores the actions senior managers took to implement ambidextrous designs and identify which ones helped or hindered them in their attempts. A set of interrelated choices of organization design and senior team process determines which attempts to build ambidextrous organizations are successful.

Keywords: Decision Choices and Conditions; Management Practices and Processes; Resource Allocation; Organizational Change and Adaptation; Organizational Design; Opportunities;


O'Reilly, Charles A., III, and Michael L. Tushman. "Organizational Ambidexterity in Action: How Managers Explore and Exploit." California Management Review 53, no. 4 (Summer 2011): 5–21.