Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to explore how public cultural organizations use ambidextrous design to balance exploitation and exploration given their organizational structure that mainly stimulates exploitation. Design/methodology/approach – The authors use an abductive methodology and, perform an in-depth comparative case study. The data sample consists of two Belgian public cultural centers located in the Flemish area. In all, 21 semi-structured interviews where analyzed using Nvivo. Findings – Results show, first, that although both cases have the same formal organization chart, their informal structure differs. Second, both cases have a different point of view toward exploitation and exploration. Third, no “pure” ambidextrous designs were found. Finally, the paper formulates theoretical propositions for ambidexterity and public sector research. Research limitations/implications – Limitations of this paper are threefold. First, the authors only compared two cases, so generalization of the findings is limited. Second, although the authors managed to make contributions to ambidexterity and public sector research, theory building is not finished. Finally, researchers have to improve empirical evidence focusing on which design elements lead toward ambidextrous public organizations. Originality/value – This paper makes a threefold contribution to ambidexterity literature and public sector research. First, the focus on public sector organizations is a rarely taken approach in ambidexterity research. Second, the specific use of ambidextrous design attributes to the limited public sector research that has focused on ambidexterity. Third, the focus on small organizations with limited resources is a rarely taken focus in ambidexterity and public sector research.

Additional Metadata
Keywords Organizational structure, Ambidexterity, Public sector organizations, In-depth comparative case study
Persistent URL hdl.handle.net/1765/123362
Journal International Journal of Public Sector Management
Cannaerts, N.J.L., Segers, J.M.J., & Henderickx, E. (2016). Ambidextrous design and public organizations: a comparative case study. International Journal of Public Sector Management, 29(7), 708–724. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/123362