Ambidexterity & Collective Cognitive Dissonance: How Team Characteristics Promote Innovation

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Performance Management | Technology and Innovation

Publication Title

Academy of Management Annual Meeting Proceedings


We examine how employees and teams deal with the conflicting goals of innovation and productivity inherent in the concept of ambidexterity. Despite the fact that much of the innovative work in today’s organizations is carried out by employees in teams, very little empirical research has been done on organizational ambidexterity at a more micro-level. Our grounded model, based on a qualitative data collection in an IT multinational organization, reveals how individuals collectively shared an uncomfortable state of cognitive dissonance related to the perceived mismatch between i) the pressure from top managers towards becoming more innovative and ii) their everyday work oriented towards productivity and driven by standard processes. Collective cognitive dissonance was solved by individuals in different ways. Some employees worked to become more innovative, thus contributing to organizational ambidexterity. Others, however, enacted conservative responses, either rationalizing the inconsistency by re-interpreting what they were doing as innovative or changing their attitudes by seeing the company as not innovative. Different responses were contingent on the characteristics of the teams individuals were part of, i.e. managerial support, psychological safety, and boundary permeability. Our findings have implications for the study of microfoundations of ambidexterity and collective cognitive dissonance processes.