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Individual ambidexterity : the challenge of changing the performed balance between explorative and exploitative behavior

Rietberg, J. (2015) Individual ambidexterity : the challenge of changing the performed balance between explorative and exploitative behavior.

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Abstract:It is important for organizations to perform both exploration and exploitation and maintain an appropriate balance between the two (March, 1991). This was first called ambidexterity by Duncan (1976). Herein exploitation refers to the extension and refinement of existing competences, technologies and paradigms, while exploration refers to experimentation with new alternatives (March, 1991). The challenge of performing both exploration and exploitation in an appropriate balance lies in the fact that there is a bias towards exploitation, because of its higher chance of short-term successes than exploration (March, 1991). The challenge of maintaining an appropriate balance addresses firm survival over time. Namely, the appropriate balance can change due to changes in environmental dynamics concerning the firm (O’Reilly & Tushman, 2013). That makes it necessary to be able to change the performed balance between exploration and exploitation. Given the fact that much of the work that is performed in organizations is done through organizational routines (March & Simon, 1958; Cyert & March, 1963), this could be deemed a challenge. Organizational routines are namely considered as constraining changes in behavior (Feldman, 2000; Gilbert, 2005) and therefore the performed balance between exploration and exploitation. Many scholars on ambidexterity have explored why some organizations are ambidextrous, while others are not. Gibson and Birkinshaw (2004) have contributed herein by showing that ambidexterity at the organizational level can be achieved by supporting individual ambidexterity. Recent literature on individual ambidexterity is scarce though (Raisch, Birkinshaw, Probst & Tushman, 2009) and moreover neglects the challenge for individuals to change the balance between explorative and exploitative behavior, while working in organizational routines. Research into this challenge and how it can be overcome is vital though in order to understand individual ambidexterity and how it can be achieved. Therefore, the research goal of this thesis is to explore the challenge for an employee to change his or her balance between explorative and exploitative behavior.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:85 business administration, organizational science
Programme:Business Administration MSc (60644)
Link to this item:http://purl.utwente.nl/essays/67113
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