Transforming your organization to become an ambidextrous one is achievable, yet it starts with you, the leader. Like anything, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, but what it does entail is a combination of factors in order to make the transition. You need to be able to successfully exploit all your assets and investments that make up your business and apply the yield to explore new opportunities and ventures.

An ambidextrous leader needs to find the balance, juggling between executing the day-to-day tasks and deliverables, as well as looking ahead to find new ways to both evolve and ameliorate the company. For one to develop ambidexterity, exploring new horizons is key. As well as identifying the main functions of the organization and analyzing the effectiveness of their senior management and behaviors internally, in conjunction, one needs to encourage innovative thinking and practice.

One of the great failures that can come from organizations is reaching inertia. Inertia can originate from having a senior management team that has been together for a long time, forming the same opinions, creating a micro culture that is then ill-equipped to react to outside issues, resulting in poor performance overall. Rigid and constant alignment on processes can also contribute to inertia, which can stifle creativity and result in a stale office environment incapable of change. What we need to avoid at all costs is the idea of this silo black hole, where organizations segment their departments, resulting in a lack of communication and cohesion – that’s where failure is most likely to occur. The overlap between different areas of the business is too great now and leaders must define their corporate structure to encourage an inclusive and collaborative environment in order to thrive.

Beyond the people and what you are good at, organizations need to look far beyond where they are right now and adopt a cautious approach for future growth. There is a fine line between exploiting and exploring; a wise leader should know how to merge them both. Getting the best out of your staff, your products and services, your service level agreements, and your processes, is healthy for a company to sustain, but only if at the same time you are looking for new and innovative solutions to up-sell and diversify your offering.

Many companies fall into the trap of running in circles, resisting change and hoping to ride out the inevitable. Companies like Toys“R”Us, Forever21, and Yahoo failed because they lacked the foresight to change when the landscape began to shift and then found themselves unable to evolve. In our industry alone, you only need to take a closer look at Sizmek’s well documented failings to understand the impact of not pivoting quick enough, relying on old successes in a market that is much more competitive today. Staying relevant is crucial, whilst complacency is the ultimate shortcut to failure.

For these businesses, exploiting what’s worked before and playing it safe was a sustainable solution for a long time, and yet their fate was downsizing and eventual bankruptcy. Companies that continuously explore new opportunities, either investing in new ventures or diversifying their offerings, whilst keeping their core competency solid are ambidextrous. Apple is an organization awarded this title, as they continually generate excitement with their product releases each year. However, despite their market positioning as innovators, their iPhone offerings are now essentially new iterations of previous versions. However, it’s the way in which Apple seeks new ways to use their technology, design, and customers’ loyalty in different ways to reshape their approach in each market, which has ensured their continued success.

Of course, Ambidextrous organizations are not founded overnight; you need to go beyond your service and product offering to create an emotionally compelling brand identity as well. Your business’s products and services is only one half of the equation – it’s the impact of what you offer which is how your business will be remembered. We talk a lot about impact and compelling stories, and it’s these two elements which will give you room to innovate and explore more for your organization.

When faced with external disruptions and challenges, global leaders look to make quick and effective decisions to overcome these hurdles successfully. As a result, cutting costs, putting investments on hold, cutting back on hiring, cutting back on sponsorship, and instead, aiming to just break-even, are all measures which most CEOs take. Most companies in the Gulf region have taken desperate action to sustain the economic turmoil that has been going for the last few years, putting exploitation ahead of exploration in order to keep afloat. Making difficult decisions go hand-in-hand with being in senior management, but ultimately it comes down to how you lead. Employees look to the captain of the ship to steer them through tough times and find a new way to thrive, even when others around them are sinking. If you can create an ambidextrous organization, then you’re already halfway there; trust everyone to play their part and success will follow, you just need to be agile enough to make the change.

Written by Nader Bitar
Deputy General Manager