In managing organisations for peak performance, managers have to deal with the strategic paradox of either exploiting their current resources, skills and competencies, or exploring and finding new alternatives. Managers are constantly challenged with this complex paradox and must decide how to leverage these seemingly opposite tensions for best performance. This study investigates the factors that affect exploitation and exploration, the implications of not balancing them, and finally whether they should be traded off against one another or done ambidextrously, which is a metaphor for organisations that are equally dexterous at exploiting and exploring.
To this end, a qualitative research study with an explorative design was conducted in order to delve deep into this quandary. Interviews with 14 leading executives and four strategy experts were held to uncover their unique insights into this paradox. The insights from these in-depth interviews formed the basis of the data that was analysed using content analysis to produce the research findings of this study.
The research identified the factors that could influence the degree to which an organisation explores or exploits. The research confirmed that exploitation and exploration are interdependent and should be done ambidextrously. The exploitation versus exploration management model emerged from these research findings. This model will assist managers in understanding the paradox and will put them in a position to better manage exploitation and exploration in order for the company to be sustainable.