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A Dialectic Perspective on Innovation: Conflicting Demands, Multiple Pathways, and Ambidexterity

  • Ronald Bledow (a1), Michael Frese (a1), Neil Anderson (a2), Miriam Erez (a3) and James Farr (a4)...


Innovation, the development and intentional introduction of new and useful ideas by individuals, teams, and organizations, lies at the heart of human adaptation. Decades of research in different disciplines and at different organizational levels have produced a wealth of knowledge about how innovation emerges and the factors that facilitate and inhibit innovation. We propose that this knowledge needs integration. In an initial step toward this goal, we apply a dialectic perspective on innovation to overcome limitations of dichotomous reasoning and to gain a more valid account of innovation. We point out that individuals, teams, and organizations need to self-regulate and manage conflicting demands of innovation and that multiple pathways can lead to idea generation and innovation. By scrutinizing the current use of the concept of organizational ambidexterity and extending it to individuals and teams, we develop a framework to help guide and facilitate future research and practice. Readers expecting specific and universal prescriptions of how to innovate will be disappointed as current research does not allow such inferences. Rather, we think innovation research should focus on developing and testing principles of innovation management in addition to developing decision aids for organizational practice. To this end, we put forward key propositions and action principles of innovation management.


Corresponding author

E-mail:, Address: Department of Work and Organizational Psychology, Otto-Behaghel-Str. 10F, 35394 Giessen, Germany. University of Giessen


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