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A Journal of University-Industry-Government Innovation and Entrepreneurship

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Table 1 Comparison of the three operational models for ambidexterity

From: Three operational models for ambidexterity in large corporations

  GE Appliances–FirstBuild Electrolux–Open Innovation Lantmännen–Greenhouse
Approach Co-Creation on an open platform in a separate business, which is also a boundary- spanning unit between GE Appliances (including BU engineers) and makers. Internal OI function that serves as a boundary spanning unit between internal BUs, R&D, Manufacturing, and external idea and technology providers. Internal accelerator program with an element of boundary spanning through co-creation and collaboration with external researchers and entrepreneurs, as well as with external incubator.
Initial purpose Bring larger numbers of innovations to market through the use of startup practices. First Build creates an innovation culture with transparent interaction between GE Appliances engineers, external idea providers, makers and customers Increase the number of innovations through open innovation; help create an OI culture in the firm; train ambassadors for the culture. The OI function was launched to operate on a global level. Increase the number of innovations through the Greenhouse—where employees are invited to an educational accelerator program to develop their own ideas—and contribute to the building of an innovation culture.
Ambidexterity strategy Simultaneous with structural separation Simultaneous without structural separation Simultaneous with semi-structural separation
Innovation focus Provides sold and tested products with feedback from real customers to internal BUs. In the case of business model innovations, provides new solutions to top executives. Provides new ideas and technology solutions to internal stakeholders. Innovations mainly complement current products or processes. Business model innovations are brought to top executives. Provides more new products or technologies to current business units. Business model innovations are incubated outside the firm.
Probe-and-Learn processes Rapid learning through a mixed approach of open platform/ ecosystem innovation and pulling needs from BUs. Increase pace of learning by building a network of selected partners and intermediaries (e.g. VCs) that scan the startup community in parallel with pulling needs from BUs. Increase pace of learning by actively ask for and rapidly conceptualize ideas or solutions coming from both employees and external researchers, entrepreneurs.
Co-creation Crowdsourcing of ideas and crowd decision-making through transparent processes. Rapid development of products that are sold to customers providing early feedback—as in a startup company BUs’ needs are the starting point. The OI unit then puts out two kinds of challenges: targeted challenges for specific needs, where traditional crowdsourcing intermediaries are used; and “Inspirational” challenges for opportunities that are less defined but aligned to strategy, where banks and venture capital firms are the links to startups. The OI unit takes an active role in supporting external startups and cooperating with internal Bus. Corporate research fund for long-term cooperation with university researchers and startups. Internal budget allocated to the Greenhouse to support realization of internal ideas. R&D unit supports in filing for IP for external entrepreneurs, and lets startups keep rights to own IP if the company gets exclusivity for a time period.
Top management role Active support by CEO from the start Active support from CTO/COO, emphasizing the need of high internal competence to benefit from external innovation Active support by CEO and leadership by R&D director. Board supports a more long- term business mindset
Integration with business units (BUs) Early involvement of BUs and of BU engineers in innovation process interacting with maker community Early involvement of BUs, creating a demand for ideas by identifying BUs’ needs and searching for technology based on these needs. Early involvement of BUs: Corporate R&D unit actively listens to BU research needs and BUs are part of early decision making on new business concepts
Evaluation process Evaluation through a combination of crowd input and BU managers Evaluation by OI Board including level 2–3 top managers “Dragon’s Den” with heads of R&D, Strategy, and Marketing participating along with relevant BU managers
Use of standardized approaches Standard methods of crowdsourcing and interacting with maker community. Based on an approach, including an Internet platform, developed by and contracted with Local Motors Develops own standard procedures internally—but takes inspiration from OI approaches in other corporations and relies on existing intermediary networks to reach startups Based on tools tested by other companies and an approach designed by an external business incubator providing consultancy, training and services
Implementation strategy Gradually evolving, based on externally developed approach and learning-by-doing Gradually evolving approach, based on learning-by-doing and collecting lessons learned from others Gradually evolving approach, based on externally identified methods and a learning-by-doing approach