Pathways to Ambidexterity: A Process Perspective on the Exploration-Exploitation Paradox

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Raisch, S., & Zimmermann, A. (2017). Pathways to Ambidexterity: A Process Perspective on the Exploration-Exploitation Paradox. In W. K. Smith, M. W. Lewis, P. Jarzabkowski & A. Langley (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Organizational Paradox: Approaches to Plurality, Tensions and Contradictions (pp. 315-332). Oxford: Oxford University Press.


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The objective of this chapter is to develop a process perspective on ambidexterity that not only informs the specific research on reconciling the contradictory forces of exploration and exploitation, but also the broader theory on how organizations experience and address paradoxical tensions. We distinguish three stages of paradox management within ambidextrous organizations. During the initiation stage, organizational actors identify the paradoxical tensions and develop a strategic plan to address them. In the subsequent contextualization stage, they put the organizational structures, cultures, and processes in place, with which to address the paradox. During the implementation stage, the organizational actors manage the paradoxical tensions in their day-to-day activities. By comparing the structural, contextual, and sequential pathways that organizations take to navigate these stages, we review and expand current theorizing on exploration–exploitation tensions and derive promising avenues for future ambidexterity and paradox research.



  • Institut für Entrepreneurship
  • Lehrstuhl für Entrepreneurship und Strategisches Management

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