Tank Meeting 2013 #3 Ambidextrous Organization


Being ambidextrous means being as skilled with your left hand as your right. Ambidextrous in an organizational context has a slightly different meaning; a company is great at maintaining their core business, yet it is able to develop and commercialize new products, services or businesses. For mature, larger companies this is an important skill to master, since markets and consumers easily change behaviors. There are plenty of examples ranging from typewriters and photography to mobile phones.

The session was facilitated by Bengt Järrehult of SCA  and Dariush Ghatan of Googol. Järrehult held a small lecture about why ambidexterity in organizations is necessary and how to organize an ambidextrous organization. Bengt highlighted four innovation areas and discussed the return on innovation efforts:

  1. No Innovation
  2. Upgrading Innovation
  3. New generation innovation
  4. Breakthrough innovation

The breakthrough innovation area is 7 to 15 times harder to achieve but gives 10 – 50 times higher return on innovation. According to Bengt, you organize for this by having your regular organization, i.e. sales, marketing, R&D and so on, and adding an extra arm for developing new projects, totally separated from the rest of the organization.

Dariush Ghatan talked about the four enablers that play their part in changing this within the organization.

  • Focus and Strategy
  • Structure and Organization
  • Culture and Leadership
  • Communication and Ecosystem

All participants were asked to reflect on this from their individual and organizational point of view and discuss this together in groups. Below are the results from the different work groups.

Focus and Strategy

The organization needs to have a vision, insight and sense of urgency, act when you have the time and money. Create this with gamification. Use tools to measure return of innovation and from that prioritize your project portfolio. One example is Portfolio Management – How do you use your resources.

Structure and Organization

Innovation Program – Example from TetraPak

Take a few people from various departments to work on new projects. The outcome of this ”left hand department” goes back to the organization, is spinned off or ends up in the trashcan. Use gamification and let employees bet on new statements with a small percent from their salary. Management can see what projects they are encouraged to invest in and everyone get’s involved in the innovation process.

Culture and Leadership

Leadership is more important than management. Innovation is everyones business and top management should give positive remarks and awards instead of punishment in order to develop a stimulating innovation culture. The objective is to get the organizations ethics and hearts into the projects. Use different KPIs from the new and old business so one does not effect the other negatively.

Communication and Ecosystem

The Innovation Team will have to completely change their way of communicating to obtain funding etc. What has not been communicated has not happened. Keep management, and in some cases the board of directors, informed and give them a chance to look into the future. One suggestion is that the board should deliver an innovation report. We have R&D but we need RD&C, research, development and commercialization. Change KPIs so that people don’t have to change their behavior to include the commercialization part.

Innovation Academy

During the second half of the day Bo Olsson presented Innovation Academy and asked the Innovation Pioneers Initiators which topics interested them and how Innovation Academy can broaden its portfolio. To contribute, please email bo.olsson@innovationacademy.se.

Innovation Portfolio Management

Robert Svanberg, Googol, concluded the 3rd Tank Meeting by presenting Innovation Portfolio Management; a visual approach for managing your idea, project and product portfolio. It gives you the opportunity to really see which projects and products that add value to the organization and sort out those that does not. One of the major benefits of visualizing your portfolio, apart from having the complete overview, is that everyone in your organization shares the same view.

Article by Linda Fredell


September 4th-5th 2013

Day 1 Agenda (Wednesday September 4th)

14.30 Guided tour in Alfa Lavals facilities
15.30 Gathering at Alfa Lavals office, Lund
16.00 Initiator discussion on Innovation in Action
17.00 Innovation Pioneers members and new Initiators
19.00-22.00 Dinner

Day 2 Agenda (Thursday September 5th)
A two part workshop facilitated by Bengt Järrehult, SCA and Dariush Ghatan, Googol on Ambidextrous Organization.
8.30 Introduction and welcoming
9.30 Workshop
12.00 Lunch
13.00 Workshop
16.00 Round up and conclusions
16.30 End

The second days’ theme will be Ambidextrous Organization:

Ambidextrous is a strange word that it occurred in a Swedish TV Quiz a couple of years ago. Nobody knew what it meant. It originally means being just as skilled with your left as with your right hand, just like Leonardo da Vinci. In connection to business we mean that ambidextrous organisations are those who both can focus on “Playing not to lose” by taking care of what has been gained during years, simultaneously as they can  focus on “Playing to Win”  what yet is to be gained, but this is done in 2 different parts of the company, with all the tension that is connected to that. This double focus is what innovation scientists and practitioners has united themselves upon is the only right thing to do, especially when it is about innovation in large and mature companies. It is however easier said than done, as predictably irrational behavior and existing reward system comes in the way for initiatives like corporate venturing etc. During the workshop we will focus on how to build up an ambidextrous organization and how we could handle the hurdles that occur to this.


Our initiating companies