This study explores how middle managers deal with knowledge inflows whilst striving to achieve ambidexterity. This is enabled through a two-dimensional conceptual framework involving knowledge sources (vertical or horizontal) and acquisition activities (structural and contextual). We based our study upon interviews conducted with 64 managers from hypermarket retailers in China, in addition to field observations and secondary data. Our findings reveal that these middle managers leverage different combinations of structural and contextual mechanisms to govern the vertical (top-down and bottom-up) knowledge inflows within their business units. Structural mechanisms comprise differentiation and integration. For their part, contextual mechanisms consist of a combination of discipline, stretch, support and trust. These combinations also enable horizontal knowledge inflows to be managed from outside the business unit. These also enable middle managers’ ambidexterity, first at the business unit level and second at the organization level. Our findings offer managerial guidelines for handling knowledge inflows from various sources and with different patterns. They also assist middle managers with their contribution to their firms’ pursuit of organizational ambidexterity.
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Xiong JieYan JieSu Peiran
Bonanni, CaroleLi Qian
Department of Business and Management
Year of publication: 2021Date of RADAR deposit: 2021-11-29
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