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The Ambidextrous CEO

Many CEOs take a backseat in debates about allocating resources to new business exploration, ceding much of their power to middle managers – and the company ends up as a collection of feudal baronies. This is a recipe for long-term failure, say the authors. Their research of 12 top management teams at major companies suggests that firms thrive only when senior teams lead ambidextrously-when they foster a state of constant creative conflict between the old and the new.

Successful CEOs first develop a broad, forward-looking strategic aspiration that sets ambitious targets both for innovation and core business growth. They then hold the tension between innovation unit demands and core business demands at the very top of the organization. And finally they embrace inconsistency, allowing themselves the latitude to pursue multiple and often conflicting agendas.