A concept that has captured the imagination of organisational scholars over
the last two decades is that of 'organisational ambidexterity'. This has been
described as the 'concurrent pursuit of exploitation and exploration', or how
companies manage what they know (their current business) and develop what they
as yet don't know (their business of tomorrow). It is considered critical to an
organisation's success but it is also recognised as something extremely
difficult to achieve within a single organisation. As a result there has been a
lot of interest in how strategic alliances can help achieve this goal. Yet
there are other sources of ambidexterity, such as client relationships, that
merit further study.
Academic research into Knowledge-Intensive firms has developed some
understanding of how firms can use client relationships for their own knowledge
development. These firms rely on their ability to create, preserve and
replenish valuable knowledge that they apply in their knowledge-based services.
Therefore they offer a useful context in which to study the potential of client
relationships to enable organisational ambidexterity.
This paper explains how dynamic client portfolios can be a source of
ambidexterity for knowledge intensive firms (KIFs). Drawing from a unique
qualitative dataset of firms in the global reinsurance market, we show how
different types of client relationships underpin a dynamic client portfolio and
become a source of ambidexterity for a KIF. We develop a process model to show
how KIFs attain knowledge by segmenting their client portfolios, use that
knowledge to explore and exploit within and across their client relationships,
and dynamically adjust their client portfolios over time. This study
contributes to the literature on external sources of ambidexterity and dynamic
management of client knowledge within KIFs.
A draft version of the research paper is available for download below. This
research has been accepted for publication at Long