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5 May 2021 - 5 May 2021

1:00PM - 2:00PM

Online seminar using Zoom

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Part of the School of Education Research Seminar Series.

Principal Ambidexterity: Exploring and Exploiting in dynamic Contexts

Dr Marcus Pietsch, Professorship of Education, Leuphana University,  Germany 

Professor Pierre Tulowitzki, Chair of Educational Management and School Improvement at the FHNW University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland 

This will be a virtual seminar using Zoom.  Contact for details about how to take part.

Schools are learning organizations that must respond quickly and flexibly to their dynamic environments without losing sight of everyday duties. Thus, schools need to handle the tension between exploring new possibilities (learning and changing) and exploiting existing accomplishments (routine and repetition). March described this tension, which later came to be known as ambidexterity, noting that the “basic problem confronting an organization is to engage in sufficient exploitation to ensure its current viability and, at the same time, devote enough energy to exploration to ensure its future viability”[1].

In this regard, a key challenge is the tendency to favor exploitation over exploration, as the former offers predictability and success, at least over the short term. Exploration, by contrast, is marked by short-term inefficiency, uncertainty and occasional failures. However, organizations focusing solely on exploitation are likely to fail in the long run because they are unable to cope with change. Engaging simultaneously in both processes respective activities is viewed crucial for the success and long-term survival of organizations, particularly in competitive, more dynamic and unpredictable contexts where the likelihood of a disruptive change that renders current methods or products obsolete is considered higher.

This holds true not only for organizations but also for their managers and leaders, as organizational ambidexterity is rooted in the ambidextrous behaviors of employees, which is characterized by integrative and paradoxical thinking or quickly shifting between entrepreneurial and administrative leadership roles. While there have recently been several studies that examine ambidexterity in the public sector, there is a lack of relevant research with regard to schools and, especially, to principals.

In this research seminar, we will therefore discuss the concept of ambidexterity in the context of education and provide insights into our research in this area. In doing so, we will present findings on how competition between schools affects the ambidexterity of school leaders and show how the exploitation of current knowledge and the exploration of new knowledge in the context of schooling affects how schools deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Further Readings:
Pietsch, M., Tulowitzki, P. & Cramer, C. (2020). Principals between Exploitation and Exploration: Results of a nation-wide study on ambidexterity of school leaders. Educational Management, Administration & Leadership. OnlineFirst:


[1] Levinthal, D. A., & March, J. G. (1993). The myopia of learning. Strategic Management Journal, 14(2), 95–112.


Dr Marcus Pietsch

Professor Pierre Tulowitzki