How to Facilitate Knowledge Ambidexterity with the Use of Enterprise Social Media




Knowledge Ambidexterity, Knowledge Management, Enterprise Social Media


Organizations that operate under uncertainty need to cultivate their ability to manage their primary resource, knowledge, accordingly. Under such conditions, organizations are required to harvest knowledge from two sources: to explore knowledge that is to be found outside the organization as well as exploit knowledge that is contained within. In a knowledge management context these exploitation and exploration activities have been conceptualized as knowledge ambidexterity.

While ambidexterity has been studied extensively in contexts as manufacturing or IT, the notion of knowledge ambidexterity remains scarce in current knowledge management research. This study illustrates knowledge ambidexterity and elaborates its positive impact on organizational performance. Our study furthermore answers the question of how the use of enterprise social media (ESM) can facilitate the performance effects of knowledge ambidexterity. Drawing on the theory of communication visibility, we argue that ESM (e.g., Microsoft Teams, Slack, etc.) allow employees to communicate unhindered while making these communications visible. This allows for capturing tacit knowledge within these communications - this form of knowledge is generally hard to codify and can be a source of competitive edge. With respect to knowledge ambidexterity, ESM use can capture tacit knowledge aspects originating from inside and outside the organization, which fosters the development of a competitive advantage and, thus, supports its positive effect on organizational performance.

This paper contributes to IT-enabled ambidexterity research in two aspects: (1) It sheds light on knowledge ambidexterity and, thereby, addresses a major practical challenge for knowledge-intensive organizations, and
(2) it elaborates on the effects that ESM use can have on the relationship between knowledge ambidexterity and organizational performance. This work-in-progress paper offers a better understanding of the phenomenon of ambidexterity in a knowledge context, while providing insights on the facilitating role of ESM. Our research serves as a foundation for future empirical examinations of the concept of knowledge ambidexterity.