Initiating Ambidexterity through Digital Innovation Labs

Lucas Göbeler, Daniel Schaar, Philipp Hukal

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingArticle in proceedingsResearchpeer-review


Many established organizations struggle to become ambidextrous. Recently, pervasive digitalization exacerbates the pressure on incumbents to find adequate organizational responses in order to survive under changing industry conditions. In this paper, we report a multiple case study into six financial services providers. Exploring the question of how organizations can initiate ambidextrous activities into their business, we focus on the widespread practice of digital innovation labs (DILs). Through our analysis, we identify two modes by which DILs help organizations initiate ambidexterity; (i) active engagement is a set up that allows DILs to directly carry out explorative and exploitative activity for the firm; (ii) passive enablement, on the other hand, uses DILs as providers of infrastructure, coaching, and resources for the remaining organization to initiate ambidextrous activities where needed. We discuss these findings in light of the recent literature on digital innovation management and ambidexterity. We make important contributions: 1) in line with the view of ambidexterity as dynamic capability, we add to the explanations of structural separation as effective vehicles to initiate ambidexterity, 2) we outline that the two identified modes of operating DILs are associated with unique configurations of managing digital innovation in incumbent firms.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 28th European Conference on Information Systems (ECIS) : A Virtual AIS Conference
Number of pages15
Place of PublicationAtlanta, GA
PublisherAssociation for Information Systems. AIS Electronic Library (AISeL)
Publication date2020
Article number55
Publication statusPublished - 2020
EventThe 28th European Conference on Information Systems (ECIS) 2020: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity in a Digital World - Virtual Conference, Marrakesh, Morocco
Duration: 15 Jun 202017 Jun 2020
Conference number: 28


ConferenceThe 28th European Conference on Information Systems (ECIS) 2020
LocationVirtual Conference
Internet address
SeriesProceedings of the European Conference on Information Systems


  • Ambidexterity
  • Dynamic capability
  • Digital innovation
  • Multiple case study
  • Financial services

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