A Modularity View of Alliance Portfolio Configuration and Organizational Ambidexterity

Date of Completion

January 2012


Business Administration, Management




Does a firm's alliance portfolio influence the firm's ability to pursue both exploitation and exploration, or ambidexterity? I build a model informed by the modularity perspective to address this central managerial challenge and adaptive hurdle for the firm. Based on the core modularity insight that decoupling a complex system into its discrete subsystems, or modules, enhances the system's flexibility and efficiency, I propose that the firm's ability to attain ambidexterity is significantly enhanced by a modular alliance portfolio configuration. Specifically, and consistent with the modularity research's focus on the design rules of architecture, interfaces, and integration protocols and testing standards, I argue that a firm's alliance portfolio boosts the firm's ambidextrous potential to the extent that the firm: a) establishes an alliance portfolio architecture; b) partitions relationships across alliance partners, c) decouples alliance functions across alliance partners, and d-e) utilizes standardized communication interfaces and generic assets to manage alliance relationships. I then test and find general support for these arguments using data on medical device manufacturers operating in USA from 1991 to 2010. ^