Cannibalize and combine? The impact of ambidextrous innovation on organizational outcomes under market competition

Nukhet Harmancioglu, Maria Sääksjärvi, Erik Jan Hultink

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


How can a firm achieve ambidexterity? The present study proposes that the answer to this question lies in the distinction between ambidextrous culture and ambidextrous innovation. Drawing upon organizational learning theory and the source-position-performance framework, we propose that ambidexterity requires the adoption of two important organizational cultures, willingness to cannibalize (WTCA) and willingness to combine existing knowledge (WTCO), which allow firms to attain superior performance through the implementation of both radical and incremental (i.e., ambidextrous) innovations. Our major contribution lies in addressing the important debate in the literature on whether exploration and exploitation are complements or substitutes. Furthermore, competition intensity is a key condition that determines the degree to which the two types of organizational cultures and the two types of innovations are necessary for superior firm performance. The study uses data from multiple respondents from 199 Chinese firms. Our findings thus suggest that WTCA and WTCO, which are traditionally treated as opposites, are complements in generating radical innovations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-57
Number of pages14
JournalIndustrial Marketing Management
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Ambidextrous innovations
  • Chinese business
  • Partial least squares
  • Willingness to cannibalize
  • Willingness to combine existing knowledge


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