PurposeMost literature on ambidexterity has focused on large firms and on the influence of internal issues in this strategy, that is, organizational structures, top management integration, or internal knowledge management processes (Lutbatkin et al., 2006; Chang et al., 2011; Lee and Huang, 2012). The purpose of this paper is to assess small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)’ ambidexterity strategies during economic recession periods in comparison with those of large firms and identify the managerial external capabilities which are associated with the development of SMEs’ ambidexterity.Design/methodology/approachA multinomial logit model and a probit model are proposed and tested using data collected from 2,150 Spanish firms during the period of 2009-2013.FindingsThe data analysis reveals that SMEs develop more ambidextrous innovation strategies in recession periods than larger firms do. Moreover, two managerial external capabilities have been identified as drivers of SMEs’ ambidextrous behavior in crisis periods: first, the capability of top management to anticipate scenarios; and second, the capacity to acquire adequate external resources through co-operation.Practical implicationsThe results show that SME managers wanting to develop ambidextrous strategies in recession periods have to forecast scenarios in terms of innovation difficulties and strengthen their resources through co-operation. Implementation of public policy is encouraged to support these capabilities, thus enhancing SME sustainability in uncertain contexts.Originality/valuePrior studies have paid little attention to the role of external capabilities. Although their role was revealed as a relevant dimension in the study of SME ambidexterity in adverse contexts by Cao et al. (2010), it remained underexplored. This paper aims to fill this gap.
Management Decision – Emerald Publishing
Published: Jan 14, 2019
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