What it means to be an ambidextrous innovation leader

What it means to be an ambidextrous innovation leader

Developing greater agility for sustainability in a rapidly changing world

By Gaia Grant

Gaia Grant has just completed a White Paper on the importance of embracing the new concept of organisations and their leaders being “ambidextrous”. With the iCLi Innovation Change Leader assessment developed from this research we can now identify leadership ambidexterity for individuals (try it here ). We can also assess ambidexterity in the organisation culture through our Innovation Culture Index (iCi). In Gaia’s research (through Sydney University Business School) she has conducted: 66 innovation leader interviews, 2 year-long case studies, 1071 survey responses, and focused on responses from 118 innovation leaders – and all of this information has been analyzed and compiled into this white paper, which outlines the specific ambidextrous traits needed to be innovative leader. We believe this will have a great impact on leaders and their teams and would love to sit down with you over a coffee and walk you through the results and implications for you and your organisation.

We need ambidextrous innovation leaders

Rapid change and complex contemporary environments require quick adaptive thinking. Yet ironically these complex environments can also lead to tension, which make it difficult to innovate and progress effectively.

Leaders of the future will be required to develop ambidextrous responses to deal with complexity and rapid change at all levels. That is, they will need to know how to recognize and effectively navigate competing demands to stay ahead. Although they are better resourced to respond to paradoxes once the specific tensions have been identified and addressed, leaders are often ill-prepared for identifying and dealing with them.

Innovation has a surprising important flip-side

Although innovation is typically seen as taking risks, pushing the boundaries and generating breakthrough new ideas, there are actually two polar innovation orientations that can lead to tension. There is an equally important flip-side to the standard innovation approach.

Organizations and their leaders will certainly need to explore new opportunities and rapidly develop original new products and services in order to remain competitive (an innovation orientation referred to as ‘Exploration’), yet at the same time they will need to utilize and gradually develop existing products and ensure sustainable systems and practices through incremental change (an innovation orientation referred to here as ‘Preservation’).

As an example, rapid globalization and technological development has meant leaders need to continue to push the boundaries to avoid irrelevance or obsolescence due to disruptive innovation, yet they also need to be able to continue to ensure the organisation can perform reliably and sustainably. These paradoxical elements are contradictory yet interrelated.

Finding synergy

Like the magnetic fields around the earth, which demonstrate how opposing forces can work in alignment (north and south poles), it is important that there is synergy between Exploration and Preservation to best fuel sustainable innovation and growth.

An application of this paradox theory involves:

  • identifying tensions that create polarisation
  • recognising potential dynamics that could be reinforcing these tensions, and
  • finding solutions that might help to deal with the tensions simultaneously.

The initial finding of the research program was that being able to balance key innovation paradoxes successfully assists with leadership ‘ambidexterity’, and that identifying ambidexterity orientations can provide valuable feedback for leading innovation. This approach enables greater agility for sustainability in a rapidly changing world. …. (Read the full white paper)

Write to us to order this White Paper by special request AND one of our executive team will be happy to walk you through the findings to show the relevance and how it can be applied in your workplace.

Try the Innovation Change Leader iCLi assessment to identify if you are an innovative leader: https://the-innovation-race.com/ (full company assessments & mapping are also available)

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