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Ambidextrous mechanism for agile governance: The role of Shadow Innovation in Digital Government

Conference contribution
Authors Dina Koutsikouri
Johan Magnusson
Tero Päivärinta
Published in Pre-ICIS Workshop on eGovernment, Seoul, South Korea
Publication year 2017
Published at Department of Applied Information Technology (GU)
Language en
Keywords Innovation, digital government, shadow innovation, efficiency creep
Subject categories Informatics, computer and systems science


Digital government highlights the necessity for increased innovation capabilities for governments. Hence, new forms of governance are called for that make it possible to unite innovation and efficiency and break with institutional tradition which suggests a need for balancing trade-offs. Previous calls for research have highlighted the need for an increased understanding of agile governance mechanism, particularly associated with theories of organizational ambidexterity. To this end, this paper addresses the research question: “How do public sector organizations practice ambidexterity in their ICT governance?”. Following an interpretive study approach, we analyze two government agencies in order to reveal how they balance efficiency and innovation within the context of information systems portfolios. The findings demonstrate a misalignment of strategic-tactic-operative levels in the investment justification process where at the tactical level there is a tendency to over-emphasize benefits associated with efficiency rather than innovation gains, referred to as “efficiency creep”. This misalignment is alleviated at the operative level, where co-workers engage in non-sanctioned innovation activities, referred to as “shadow innovation”. Shadow innovation is discussed as an example of an ambidextrous mechanism for agile governance, ending up in implications for future research.

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