Urban water systems worldwide need integrated, cross-sectoral innovations to anticipate developments like climate change and population growth. Development and implementation of such innovations is challenging due to the operational and sectoral mindset of organizations in which these innovations take place. This study uses the concept of ambidexterity to get a better understanding of how organizations responsible for urban water management deal with the tension between operation and the need for innovation. We focused on Amsterdam and Rotterdam, two Dutch cities that are global frontrunners in urban water management. Combining a desk study with 25 semi-structured interviews, we found four mechanisms to manage innovation and operation tensions: network, hierarchical, process and human-resource mechnanisms. Different from the literature on ambidexterity, our empirical findings show that the connection between operation and innovation is dominated by networks rather than by executives. Hierarchical mechanisms could be used to complement this, catalyzing innovation or formalizing it.
- Integrated urban water management
- organizational ambidexterity
- public service organizations
- urban water systems integration