Innovator’s Dilemma and Organizational Ambidexterity

Innovator's Dilemma - agile-od.com

A tribute post to Professor Clayton Christensen, author of “The Innovator’s Dilemma” (1997), who passed away after a long illness.

I am a big fan of Organizational Ambidexterity, made famous by Charles O’Reilly (Stanford) and Michael Tushman’s (Harvard) 2004 HBR article “The Ambidextrous Organization” (https://hbr.org/2004/04/the-ambidextrous-organization).

The idea is, like the left hand and right hand of the organization, concentrate on serving (“exploit”) current clients well on one hand, and on the other hand, do (“explore”) innovation as a separate, autonomous endeavor – in a physically different team. Yet it’s the same body, so doing this with a tightly aligned senior management team.

Organizational Ambidexterity is an operating model solution to Christensen’s Innovator’s Dilemma (“Ambidexterity as a Dynamic Capability: Resolving the Innovator’s Dilemma” 2007, O’Reilly).

The key learning from Christensen is that disruptive technology is hard to emerge from innovation efforts focused with existing customers. And incumbents are aligned to serve existing customers best, so creates opportunities to disruptors.

Organizational Ambidexterity finds ways for incumbents to become disruptors themselves.

RIP Prof. Christensen. You have disrupted the world.