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Organizational Ambidexterity: IBM and Emerging Business Opportunities


  • O'Reilly, Charles

    (Stanford University)

  • Harreld, J. Bruce


  • Tushman, Michael L.

    (Harvard University)


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.

Suggested Citation

  • O'Reilly, Charles & Harreld, J. Bruce & Tushman, Michael L., 2009. "Organizational Ambidexterity: IBM and Emerging Business Opportunities," Research Papers 2025, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:stabus:2025

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    Cited by:

    1. repec:spr:jorgde:v:6:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1186_s41469-017-0020-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Avimanyu Datta, 2016. "Antecedents To Radical Innovations: A Longitudinal Look At Firms In The Information Technology Industry By Aggregation Of Patents," International Journal of Innovation Management (ijim), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 20(07), pages 1-31, October.
    3. Niceto S. Poblador, 2011. "The Strategy Dilemma : Why Big Business Moves Seldom Pan Out as Planned," UP School of Economics Discussion Papers 201105, University of the Philippines School of Economics.
    4. Christine Chou & Steven O. Kimbrough, 2016. "An agent-based model of organizational ambidexterity decisions and strategies in new product development," Computational and Mathematical Organization Theory, Springer, vol. 22(1), pages 4-46, March.
    5. Chae, Bongsug (Kevin), 2012. "An evolutionary framework for service innovation: Insights of complexity theory for service science," International Journal of Production Economics, Elsevier, vol. 135(2), pages 813-822.
    6. Richter, Mario, 2013. "Business model innovation for sustainable energy: German utilities and renewable energy," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 1226-1237.
    7. O'Reilly, Charles A., III & Tushman, Michael L., 2013. "Organizational Ambidexterity: Past, Present and Future," Research Papers 2130, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    8. Heracleous, Loizos & Papachroni, Angeliki & Andriopoulos, Constantine & Gotsi, Manto, 2017. "Structural ambidexterity and competency traps: Insights from Xerox PARC," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 117(C), pages 327-338.
    9. Annachiara Casalini & Guido Fioretti & Andreas Pyka, 2016. "Playfulness, ideology and the technology of foolishness in the creation of a novel market niche for distributed control: The case of iPLON," Journal of Organization Design, Springer;Organizational Design Community, vol. 5(1), pages 1-16, December.

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