Building ambidextrous organizations through intellectual capital: a proposal for a multilevel model

Susana Fernández-Pérez de la Lastra, Natalia García-Carbonell, Fernando Martín-Alcázar, Gonzalo Sánchez-Gardey


Purpose: This paper proposes an alternative theoretical model to describe, from a multilevel perspective, the way in which ambidexterity is built across different organizational levels, through specific combinations of the facets of intellectual capital—human, social and organizational capital.

Design/methodology/approach: In this study, main arguments from intellectual capital, strategic human resource management (SHRM) and multilevel literature are integrated. The intellectual capital literature provides our model with the input (human capital), mechanisms (social capital) and the infrastructure (organizational capital) required to create ambidextrous capabilities; the multilevel perspective reveals the context in which ambidexterity is reached, and the strategic human resource management literature provides the model with the specific mechanisms (policies and practices) and conditions required by ambidexterity (HRM flexibility and horizontal fit).

Findings: Although the literature widely recognizes ambidexterity as a potential source of sustainable competitive advantage, the processes by which organizations complement exploration and exploitation activities still remain unclear. This study sheds some light on the analysis of these complex dynamics, explaining how ambidextrous capabilities can arise from different alternative combinations of human, social and organizational capital.

Originality/value: The paper expands the extant literature in the field, describing different paths to achieving organizational ambidexterity. The configurational approach adopted adds value to the proposed model, as it helps to explaining alternative synergistic mixes of ambidextrous intellectual capital at different organizational levels.


ambidexterity, multilevel perspective, SHRM, human capital leveraging, social processes

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Intangible Capital, 2004-2017

Online ISSN: 1697-9818; Print ISSN: 2014-3214; DL: B-33375-2004

Publisher: OmniaScience