Communications of the Association for 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. At its core, the idea posits that efficiency alone cannot ensure long-term success but that organizations also require a certain amount of inefficiency. These ideas resonate in the growing literature on organizational ambidexterity that has deemed the dynamic balancing of exploration and exploitation a prerequisite for long-term performance. We use the design characteristics of semi-confusing information systems as a lens to analyze secondary data on a case of new product development in a global, automotive organization. We found that inefficiencies in the new product-development process correspond to the proposed design characteristics of semi-confusing information systems, which illustrates a new perspective on the role that inefficiencies play in organizations’ efforts to enact ambidexterity. The identified inefficiencies manifested in unsanctioned repertoires, which resulted in increased variety. In addition, we found the level of compliance with semi-confusing information systems characteristics to impact both an organization’s ambidextrous balance and the degree to which an organization enacts ambidexterity in a decentralized way.





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