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Paper info: Paradoxes in inter-organizational relationships: how do alliances managers deal with ambidexterity in innovative projects?


Paradoxes in inter-organizational relationships: how do alliances managers deal with ambidexterity in innovative projects?


Vichara Kin, Nathalie Fabbe-Costes and Frédéric Prevot

Place of Publication

The paper was published at the 34th IMP-conference in Sri Lanka in 2018.


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Inter-organizational relationships are complex. The individuals who are at the heart of the management of these relationships are often confronted with paradoxes. As gatekeepers, they have to arbitrate between contradictory constraints. The ability to cope with these tensions is critical to the survival and competitiveness of organizations. To better understand this question, in the management literature, research on paradoxes has developed by considering them not only as a necessary evil, but rather as a lever organizing collective action. (Smith and Lewis, 2011). Although research on paradoxes has largely developed over the past 20 years, there are still areas that have not been widely explored (Schad et al., 2016). In particular, there is little research on inter-organizational situations. In addition, studies on the role of individuals in the management of paradoxes are also rare. Our study aims to fill this double research gap. We propose to analyze situations of management of paradoxes by individuals in inter-organizational context. We focus on a type of managerial situation that is an archetype of paradox management: the management of ambidexterity, which consists in finding a balance between exploration and exploitation in a context of innovation. We focus our research on situations of B to B alliances in which innovations have been developed. We study how alliances managers deal with ambidexterity in this context. Based on a series of expert interviews with alliance managers, three cases were selected and are presented in this article. They illustrate three situations of implementation of ambidexterity management practices. From a theoretical point of view, these illustrations highlight a complex phenomenon (management of ambidexterity) in a situation that adds to its complexity (innovations in the context of inter-organizational relations) by approaching it from an angle that has remained little studied in the literature on the management of paradoxes: that of the individual practices implemented by managers. In addition, these cases concern complex and frequent situations that managers face and the cases presented in this paper can be of inspiration to practitioners.