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Hybrid organisational ambidexterity

Every organisation has to deal with the tension between exploitation and exploration. Only few companies are able to balance innovation and efficiency well. This tension between the two worlds is well-studied. Exploration and exploitation do not go hand in hand. Actually, each form requires its own type of leadership.

Organisational ambidexterity (Simsek et. al.)

An accepted definition of organisational ambidexterity comes from Simsek et al. (2009). Their topologies is across two dimensions. Time and structure. Time is about the parallel or sequential pursuit of exploration and exploitation. Structure focuses is on the activities of these fields within a unit, or across units.

Ambidexterity typeDescription
HarmonicExploration and exploitation are executed at the same time and by the same unit of the organisation.
CyclicalExploration and exploitation are executed in sequence, but at the same unit of the organisation.
PartitionalAchieve exploitation and exploitation at the same time, but in different parts of the organisation.
ReciprocalExploration and exploitation are in sequence and at different parts of the organisation.

The authors note that the Simsek model works in theory, but misses the boat in practice. In real life the world is more dynamic then the model suggests. As such the authors argue for a hybrid model of ambidexterity that respects the dynamics and influences of internal and external factors.

Hybrid ambidexterity

The hybrid ambidexterity approach allows for the dynamics and offers a concrete approach. It takes into account three main elements:

  1. Hybrid, intermediate forms of organisational ambidexterity
    1. In practice organisations never use a pure form of organisational ambidexterity. The truth is somewhere in the middle of the forms. For example product group I might be harmonic and product group II being cyclical.
  2. Influence of internal and external factors
    1. Shareholders, markets all have an influence on the organisational ambidexterity used by an organisation. These influences are volatile and as such have their impact on the form of organisation.
  3. Demands on management and leadership that is required due to the highly changing environment.

Hybrid ambidexterity in practice

The article describes two practice situations of hybrid ambidexterity. Philips and Royal HaskoningDHV are featured. Based on these two explorative cases the authors suggest the following to evolve towards a hybrid organisation.

  1. Internal and external factors
    1. What internal and external factors influence our exploitation and exploration activities of the organisation.
  2. Hybrid form of ambidexterity
    1. What is our position on the continuum of organisational ambidexterity. Is this where we also want to be?
  3. Leadership and management capabilities
    1. Do we have the right leadership and management capabilities to be successful, given our (desired) position of organisational ambidexterity.

Managers continuously have to assess the balance between exploitation and exploration and how this balance is organised. Hybrid ambidexterity can help to answer the question of the leadership capabilities that is required of managers. What type of leadership is required for which form of organisation. The authors, in line with Carmeli & Halevi, conclude that managers need to have contrasting capabilities to successfully manage a hybrid ambidexterity organisation. A phenomena which is called behavioural complexity.


Kloet, C. D., & Doorewaard, J. A. C. M. (2013). Organisatieambidextrie: een paradox met een hybride oplossing.

Hybrid organisational ambidexterity