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Semi-Confusing Information Systems Revisited: The Role of Inefficiencies in the Enactment of Ambidexterity

Journal article
Authors Johan Magnusson
Lidija Polutnik
Urban Ask
Published in Communications of the Association for Information Systems
ISSN 1529-3181
Publication year 2020
Published at Department of Applied Information Technology (GU)
Language en
Keywords Inefficiency, Ambidexterity, Enactment, New product development
Subject categories Business Administration, Information Systems


Forty years ago, Bo Hedberg and Sten Jönsson proposed the notion of semi-confusing information systems as a desired state for organizations operating in dynamic environments. Core to the idea was that mere efficiency is not enough for long-term success, but that organizations also require a certain amount of inefficiency. These ideas resonate within the growing literature on organizational ambidexterity, in which the dynamic balancing of exploration and exploitation is deemed a prerequisite for long-term performance. This study utilizes the design characteristics of semi-confusing information systems as a lens for secondary analysis of a case of new product development in a global, automotive organization. The findings show that inefficiencies in the new product development process correspond to the proposed design characteristics of semi-confusing information systems, opening up for a new take on the role of inefficiencies in the enactment of ambidexterity. The identified inefficiencies are manifested in unsanctioned repertoires which result in increased variety. In addition, the level of compliance with semi-confusing information systems characteristics is found to impact both the ambidextrous balance and the decentralization of the enactment of ambidexterity.

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