What Does the Concept of Ambidexterity Mean in the Current Military Planning Process and Organization Construction?

What Does the Concept of Ambidexterity Mean in the Current Military Planning Process and Organization Construction?

Aki-Mauri Huhtinen (Department of Leadership and Military Pedagogy, Finnish National Defence University, Helsinki, Finland)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 11
DOI: 10.4018/ijcwt.2012040102
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How do organizations survive in the face of change? This is a key question for Western military organizations after the Iraq War and its consequences. All human crises are manmade because of we are human beings. The spreading of individual risk also increases systemic risk. The root cause of the problem is what has been termed “rational irrationality” – behavior that, on the individual level, is perfectly reasonable but that, when aggregated in a complex system, produces calamity (Alpaslan & Mitroff, 2010, xvii). From the perspective of organizational adaptation and learning, March (1991) argues that a significant number of competencies needs to be learnt and unlearnt during each and every process of change. According to Birkinshaw and Gibson (2011, 2004), in many sports, ambidexterity is a competitive advantage. Footballers are encouraged to use both left and right foot; left-handed batsmen have a slight advantage against right handed bowlers; the southpaw boxer presents a rarely encountered challenge to a boxer with an orthodox stance; some ambidextrous tennis players even use both hands, separately, to play strokes during a rally. And while some individuals are naturally two-handed or two-footed, many work hard to gain an advantage by practising until they master ambidexterity. The challenge for public security and safety organizations is that with terrorism and changes brought on by cyber-security they are faced with their greatest challenge since the end of World War Two. Not only are the structures and operating procedures undergoing change but also attitudes and values are pressed on by a changing society. Rational black and white thinking no longer functions when immigrants, various ethnic backgrounds, social media and the operating mechanisms and values of market economy force their way into the training grounds of military bases and battlefields. This article examines the usefulness of the concept of ambidexterity as part of the Comprehensive Approach planning and decision-making process adopted by Western military organizations.
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The Concept Of Ambidexterity

According to O’Reilly and Tushman (2007, 10), central to the adaptive process are the notions of a firm’s ability to exploit existing assets and positions in a profit producing way and to simultaneously explore new technologies and markets; to configure and reconfigure organizational resources to capture existing as well as new opportunities. This capacity has been referred to either as exploration and exploitation or ambidexterity.

The term “organizational ambidexterity” was coined by Duncan (1976) as a tool for managing trade-offs between the conflicting demands of exploration and exploitation. Since the seminal work of March (1991) on the dual nature of organizational learning there has been more discussion on how to be efficient and innovative simultaneously. This has been reflected in building a firm's abilities on how to both exploit existing resources and to explore potential opportunities in an ambidextrous manner.

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