Innovation is one of the most critical means in supporting and improving the competitive position of the firm, in particular, and a firm’s survival and growth depend greatly on its ability to balance the exploitation of existing knowledge with the exploration of new possibilities, by building ambidexterity capability. While different alternatives to realize the simultaneous reconciliation of exploration and exploitation at an operational level have been proposed, how organizations build ambidexterity capability is not fully understood. The aim of this paper is thus to explore how exploration and exploitation balancing can be achieved in practice. We decided to focus on the early phase of the process where firms search for new ideas with which to renew themselves.
To this end, we analysed the search phase of a highly innovative technology-based company by investigating structural design choices combined with the presence of specific roles and searching practices. The results show how the exploration and exploitation balancing act can actually be achieved and maintained through a multi-level approach that integrates both the operational and the strategic levels. Our findings thus contribute to the organizational ambidexterity literature, by proposing a first interpretative model for dealing with ambidexterity in the search phase of the innovation process.
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