Understanding Ambidexterity: Managing Contradictory Tensions Between Exploration and Exploitation in the Evolution of Digital Infrastructure

Ramiro Montealegre, Kishen Iyengar, Jeffrey Sweeney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Prior research on the evolution of digital infrastructure has paid considerable attention to effective strategies for resolving contradictory tensions, yet what we still do not understand is the role of higher-level organizational capabilities that help balance the contradictory tensions that emerge during this evolution. In addressing this gap, two related questions guided our investigation: (1) How do organizations experience and resolve contradictory tensions throughout the evolution of digital infrastructure? and (2) What can we learn about the organizational capabilities that drive strategic actions in resolving these contradictory tensions? We approach these questions using an in-depth case study at RE/MAX LLC, a global real estate franchise. Based on our findings, we propose a theoretical model of digital infrastructure ambidexterity. The model recognizes three pairs of capabilities (identifying and germinating, expanding and legitimizing, and augmenting and implanting) and two supporting factors (leadership and structure) that are key to resolving contradictory tensions during this evolution. This study responds to a recent research call for dynamic process perspectives at multiple levels of analysis. We discuss the implications of this model for research and practice and offer observations for future research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)647-680
Number of pages34
JournalJournal of the Association for Information Systems
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
MainStreet became financed by the franchise itself (not by headquarters) as part of its national advertising fund.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 by the Association for Information Systems.

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