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Ambidextrous design and public organizations: a comparative case study

Nele Cannaerts (Management Department, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium)
Jesse Segers (Antwerp Management School, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium)
Erik Henderickx (Management Department, University of Antwerp, Antwerp, Belgium)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Article publication date: 10 October 2016

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to explore how public cultural organizations use ambidextrous design to balance exploitation and exploration given their organizational structure that mainly stimulates exploitation.

Design/methodology/approach

The authors use an abductive methodology and, perform an in-depth comparative case study. The data sample consists of two Belgian public cultural centers located in the Flemish area. In all, 21 semi-structured interviews where analyzed using Nvivo.

Findings

Results show, first, that although both cases have the same formal organization chart, their informal structure differs. Second, both cases have a different point of view toward exploitation and exploration. Third, no “pure” ambidextrous designs were found. Finally, the paper formulates theoretical propositions for ambidexterity and public sector research.

Research limitations/implications

Limitations of this paper are threefold. First, the authors only compared two cases, so generalization of the findings is limited. Second, although the authors managed to make contributions to ambidexterity and public sector research, theory building is not finished. Finally, researchers have to improve empirical evidence focusing on which design elements lead toward ambidextrous public organizations.

Originality/value

This paper makes a threefold contribution to ambidexterity literature and public sector research. First, the focus on public sector organizations is a rarely taken approach in ambidexterity research. Second, the specific use of ambidextrous design attributes to the limited public sector research that has focused on ambidexterity. Third, the focus on small organizations with limited resources is a rarely taken focus in ambidexterity and public sector research.

Keywords

Citation

Cannaerts, N., Segers, J. and Henderickx, E. (2016), "Ambidextrous design and public organizations: a comparative case study", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 29 No. 7, pp. 708-724. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJPSM-12-2015-0210

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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