A dynamic managerial capabilities model of organizational ambidexterity

Date of Completion

January 2009


Business Administration, Management




The need to simultaneously engage in exploitation and exploration is a pivotal adaptive hurdle for organizations. For some time, management scholars and organizational theorists have attempted to explain the ability of organizations to achieve this combination, known as an ambidextrous orientation (AO). While explanations of the origins of a firm's ambidextrous orientation have emphasized structural partitioning, contextual mechanisms, and temporal sequencing, only recently scholars have adopted a dynamic capabilities perspective of ambidexterity suggesting that the ultimate responsibility for managing the combinatory tension of exploitation and exploration rests on the shoulders of the top management team. Although it has been generally acknowledged that TMTs play an instrumental role in AO by managing contradictions and conflicting goals, engaging in paradoxical thinking, and fulfilling multiple roles, what has been missing is a clear articulation of the specific attributes of TMT's that enable their ambidextrous pursuits. In keeping with the dynamic capabilities perspective, we draw on a dynamic managerial capabilities framework to argue that three core attributes (human capital intensity, social network intensity, and transactive memory) underlie a TMTs impact on AO. Because the pattern of effective dynamic capabilities depends upon market dynamism, I further enrich the models development by considering the pivotal role of market dynamism, both in directly shaping AO, and in conditioning the influence of TMT impact on AO. An investigation of 99 TMTs of small-to-medium sized firms in the high-technology sector provides general support for the model and most of its associated hypotheses. ^