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Organizational Ambidexterity

Hill, S. A. ORCID: 0000-0002-7838-1152 (2023). Organizational Ambidexterity. In: Griffin, R. W. (Ed.), Oxford Bibliographies in Management. . New York, USA: Oxford University Press. doi: 10.1093/OBO/9780199846740-0214


Organizational ambidexterity refers to the ability of an organization, or a subsystem of an organization, to perform two tasks with equal skill. The terminology “ambidexterity” is metaphorical: it is the application of a human attribute (that of being equally skilled with both hands) to organizations. While early work varied in respect of the duality ambidexterity was applied to, scholars have now largely coalesced around organizational ambidexterity as referring to exploration and exploitation. These terms were introduced by James G. March, a leading figure in the Behavioral Theory of the Firm tradition, in a seminal 1991 article (cited under *Foundational Papers*).

The normative challenge that broadly characterizes organizational ambidexterity research is the following: how do organizations manage to effectively explore and exploit, when these likely jointly influence long run performance but can compete for scarce resources and crowd each other out? In contrast to schools of thought in management, such as population ecology, that see organizational adaptation as an impossible (or near impossible) feat, scholars of organizational ambidexterity assume that organizations can adapt. Moreover, organizations can, while it might present extreme management challenges, find ways to successfully explore and exploit – and to do so more or less at the same time. Scholarly literature on organizational ambidexterity started out as a trickle of articles in the 1990s, was catapulted into mainstream management scholarship in the mid- to late 2000s, and now constitutes a sizeable corpus of research, which continues to grow and mature.

This bibliography provides a selective representation of works from this corpus, drawing principally on works published in the core journals within management and organization studies. It is organized into eight major sections. First, key foundational papers are introduced. Second, influential review articles and special issues are presented. Third, major theories drawn on in ambidexterity research are identified. Fourth, the settings most represented in organizational ambidexterity research are highlighted. Fifth, as a topic that gathered a great deal of attention in the early growth phase of organizational ambidexterity research, studies addressing whether and, if so, when ambidexterity delivers performance benefits to companies are outlined. Sixth, writings on the major forms through which organizations effect ambidexterity are identified. Seventh, research into ambidexterity focusing on human actors is overviewed. Finally, an emerging conversation on temporal dimensions of ambidexterity is presented.

Publication Type: Book Section
Additional Information: This material was originally published in Hill, S. A. (2023). Organizational Ambidexterity. In: Griffin, R. W. (Ed.), Oxford Bibliographies in Management. . New York, USA: Oxford University Press and has been reproduced by permission of Oxford University Press For permission to reuse this material, please visit
Publisher Keywords: organizational ambidexterity
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HD Industries. Land use. Labor > HD28 Management. Industrial Management
Departments: Bayes Business School > Management
[thumbnail of Hill_Organizational Ambidexterity_Accepted Version.pdf] Text - Accepted Version
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