Individual Ambidexterity

The individual plays a significant role in achieving organisational ambidexterity. Whereas under the concepts of sequential and structural ambidexterity it is especially the decision-makers and managers who have to combine the abilities of exploitation and exploration, the approach of contextual ambidexia requires this from each individual employee.

Ambidexterity at the individual level implies that each member of the organisation masters the constant alternation between efficiency and creativity, and that they divide their resources sensibly between the two priorities on their own responsibility.

In order to enable individual ambidexterity at all, employees must be given the necessary freedom. This in turn requires ambidextrous managers, as Professor Birkinshaw explains in this video.


Birkinshaw, J., & Gupta, K. (2013). Clarifying the Distinctive Contribution of Ambidexterity to the Field of Organization Studies. The Academy of Management Perspectives, 27(4), 287–298.

Bonesso, S., Gerli, F., & Scapolan, A. (2014). The individual side of ambidexterity: Do individuals’ perceptions match actual behaviors in reconciling the exploration and exploitation trade-off?

Good, D., & Michel, E. J. (2013). Individual ambidexterity: Exploring and exploiting in dynamic contexts. Journal of Psychology: Interdisciplinary and Applied, 147(5), 435–453.

Karhu, P. (2017). Cognitive ambidexterity: Examination of the cognitive dimension in decision-making dualities. Acta Universitatis Lappeenrantaensis.

Keller, T., & Weibler, J. (2015). What It Takes and Costs To Be an Ambidextrous Manager: Linking Leadership and Cognitive Strain to Balancing Exploration and Exploitation. Journal of Leadership and Organizational Studies, 22(1), 54–71.

Laureiro-Martínez, D., Brusoni, S., Canessa, N., & Zollo, M. (2015). Understanding the exploration-exploitation dilemma: An fMRI study of attention control and decision-making performance. Strategic Management Journal, 36(3), 319–338.

Mom, T. J. M., van den Bosch, F. A. J., & Volberda, H. W. (2009). Understanding Variation in Managers’ Ambidexterity: Investigating Direct and Interaction Effects of Formal Structural and Personal Coordination Mechanisms. Organization Science, 20(4), 812–828.

Papachroni, A., Heracleous, L., & Paroutis, S. (2016). In pursuit of ambidexterity: Managerial reactions to innovation–efficiency tensions. Human Relations, 69(9), 1791–1822.

Raisch, S., Birkinshaw, J., Probst, G., & Tushman, M. L. (2009). Organizational Ambidexterity: Balancing Exploitation and Exploration for Sustained Performance. Organization Science, 20(4), 685–695.

Rosing, K., & Zacher, H. (2017). Individual Ambidexterity: The Duality of Exploration and Exploitation and its Relationship with Innovative Performance. European Journal of Work and Organizational Psychology, 26(5), 694–709.

Stay in the loop with me

Sign up to receive occasional updates from my research