Erik Hansen, Samuel Wicki, Stefan Schaltegger,
"Sustainability-oriented technology exploration: managerial values, ambidextrous design, and separation drift"
, in International Society of Professional Innovation Management (ISPIM), in International Journal of Innovation Management, Imperial College Press, 2022
Sustainability-oriented technology exploration: managerial values, ambidextrous design, and separation drift
Sprache des Titels:
Sustainability presents one of the greatest challenges for society and has subsequently become an opportunity for technology innovation for new ventures. However, only few established companies have so far identified these opportunities and as uncertainties of radical sustainability-oriented innovations are high, few actually embark on them. It is often the personal values of (top) managers which are decisive for adopting radical exploration with uncertain outcomes. This paper analyzes the case of a conventional high-tech firm led by a second-generation owner-manager who incorporates strong values of universalism. Aimed at diversifying their business by serving new sustainability-oriented markets, the owner-manager initiated the exploration of renewable energy technologies. Following an ambidextrous design, technology exploration was conducted within a dedicated organizational unit separate from the exploitative core business. The managers configured and reconfigured the exploration-exploitation interface over time by using various modes of balance. In this longitudinal process study, we uncover the anatomy of the firm?s ambidextrous design, blurring of organizational separation, and ultimately unsuccessful diversification. The paper contributes to theory and practice in at least three ways: First, we contribute to a better understanding of how conventional firms can deploy their technological capabilities to solving sustainability problems by bridging mostly separate literatures on sustainability-oriented innovation, diversification, and ambidexterity. Second, we highlight the additional complexity of ambidextrous organizational design in the context of sustainability-oriented diversification and conceptualize the ?separation drift? as source of failure: a drift from a textbook-like to a looser form of organizational separation, allowing for the undesirable spillover of routines which cannibalize the new values-based business and related diversification over time. Third, we explain the role of top-management values in initializing diversification, managing ambidexterity, and the separation drift.