What it means to be an ambidextrous innovation leader

White Paper: What it means to be an ambidextrous innovation leader

Developing greater agility for sustainability in a rapidly changing world

By Gaia Grant and Professor Martin Dowson

Research whitepaper Innovation Pathways Model


  • This White Paper looks at the importance of organisations and their leaders being “ambidextrous”
  • It is based on Gaia Grant's research with the Discipline of Strategy, Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Sydney Business School
  • The white paper is a result of interviews with 70 Heads of Innovation globally, along with year-long immersion case studies, and the analysis of over 1000 survey responses
  • Along with the iCLi Innovation Change Leader assessment developed from this research it is now possible to identify leadership ambidexterity for individuals (try it here )

What it means to be an ambidextrous innovation leader: Developing greater agility for sustainability in a rapidly changing world

Rapid change and complex contemporary environments require quick adaptive thinking. Yet ironically these complex environments can also lead to tension, which make it difficult to innovate and progress effectively.

Leaders of the future will be required to develop ambidextrous responses to deal with complexity and rapid change at all levels. That is, they will need to know how to recognise and effectively navigate competing demands to stay ahead, although they are better resourced to respond to paradoxes once the specific tensions have been identified and addressed, leaders are often ill-prepared for identifying and dealing with them.

This paper reveals how it is possible to develop greater flexibility & agility.

Fill in the form below to download the White Paper
"What it means to be an ambidextrous innovation leader".

** Download link will be sent to this email address

Read about our privacy policy here >

About the author: Gaia Grant is a lecturer and doctoral researcher at the University of Sydney Business School in the Discipline of Strategy, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, focusing on research into innovation paradoxes and ambidexterity for socially responsible and sustainable innovation. Gaia is also the Managing Director of Tirian International Consulting, the co-author (with Andrew Grant) of a number of books including ‘The Innovation Race’, and a consultant and keynote speaker. Gaia worked on the paper with Professor Martin Dowson, who is a Doctor of Psychology and Director of Academic Development at Excelsia College also completing a doctoral dissertation on Philosophy at Macquarie University

The Paradoxical Innovation Process: The value of synthesising the paradoxes. Understanding the challenges of innovation journey, from imagination and ideation to implementation. Gaia looks at four key paradoxical pairings related to the exploration/exploitation tension that have been identified as needing to be resolved at each stage of the innovation process (the successful management of these paradoxes ensures the culture for innovation is purpose-driven).

The paradox theory is the latest theory to help organizations embrace change. But did you know that we have traced this as far back as ancient Egypt? In the first paradox chapter of our book, we explore the principle of ‘guided freedom’, and travel back to Egypt – “to discover that the grand 750 metre causeway stretching from the life giving Nile to the city of the dead desert plateau, in Saqqara Egypt, was built for the sole purpose of accommodating the great King Unas’ funeral procession (2350BC). Remarkably, it captures the tensions of a key paradox revealing distinctive drawings of the extremes of ‘chaos’ up one side of the causeway and ‘order’ along the other. Guided freedom, can guide us between the extreme of oppression on the one hand and chaos on the other. As an essential starting phase for the process of innovation, we need to build an environment of freedom — balanced with clear guidance and support — that enables open enquiry and provides a platform for growth. Where there is no freedom there can be no initiation of the innovation process,” (The Innovation Race)