Organizational Ambidexterity: IBM and Emerging Business Opportunities

Organizational Ambidexterity: IBM and Emerging Business Opportunities

By Charles A. O’Reilly, Michael Tushman, Bruce Harreld
2009Working Paper No. 2025

The empirical evidence is that only a tiny fraction of organizations live to age 40. Why this should be is a puzzle, since when firms are doing well they have all the resources (financial, physical, and intellectual) to continue to be successful. Yet the evidence is that most organizations fail. Drawing on recent advances in evolutionary theory, this paper illustrates how multi-level selection processes help organizations adapt in the face of technological and market changes. We show how this process, along with the concepts of organizational ambidexterity and dynamic capabilities, may help organizations survive over long time periods. We illustrate how one deliberate and repeatable version of this process enabled IBM to generate more than $15 billion in growth between 2000 and 2005.

Keywords
organizational design, leadership, growth strategy, organizational change, change management