More peeks at innovation

Notes to myself, part II, via Mike Gotta:

two articles relevant to those involved in a variety of initiatives related to improving informal learning, collaboration, knowledge management, social computing and innovation

Ambidexterity as a Dynamic Capability: Resolving the Innovator’s Dilemma by Charles O’Reilly and Michael Tushman:

How do organizations survive in the face of change? Underlying this question is a rich debate about whether organizations can adapt—and if so how. One perspective, organizational ecology, presents evidence suggesting that most organizations are largely inert and ultimately fail. A second perspective argues that some firms do learn and adapt to shifting environmental contexts. Recently, this latter view has coalesced around two themes. The first, based on research in strategy, suggests that dynamic capabilities, the ability of a firm to reconfigure assets and existing capabilities, explains long-term competitive advantage. The second, based on organizational design, argues that ambidexterity, the ability of a firm to simultaneously explore and exploit, enables a firm to adapt over time. In this paper we review and integrate these comparatively new research streams and identify a set of propositions that suggest how ambidexterity acts as a dynamic capability. We suggest that efficiency and innovation need not be strategic tradeoffs and highlight the substantive role of senior teams in building dynamic capabilities.

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Organizational Designs and Innovation Streams by Michael Tushman, Wendy Smith, Robert Chapman Wood, George Westerman and Charles O’Reilly:

This paper empirically explores the relations between alternative organizational designs and a firm’s ability to explore as well as exploit. We operationalize exploitation and exploration in terms of innovation streams; incremental innovation in existing products as well as exploring into architectural and/or discontinuous innovation. Based on in-depth, longitudinal data on 13 business units and 22 innovations, we investigate the consequences of organization design choices on innovation outcomes as well as the ongoing performance of existing products. We find that ambidextrous organization designs are significantly more effective in executing innovation streams than functional, cross-functional, and spinout designs. Further, transitions to ambidextrous designs were associated with significantly increased innovation outcomes, while shifts away from ambidextrous designs were associated with decreases in innovation outcomes. We explore the nature of ambidextrous organizational designs – their characteristics, how they operate, and their boundary conditions. Given these results, we discuss the relations between streams of innovation, organizations’ designs, and the nature of organizational adaptation.

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