Companies that can innovate in parallel with executing their core business models are "ambidextrous organizations." Steve Blank explains how applying a lean startup approach to the Three Horizons method results in an ambidextrous organization.

Ambidextrous Organizations

If you implement three horizons, you’re already doing an ambidextrous organisation, and it says the companies who want to do continuous innovation need to execute their core business model, while innovating in parallel. In this new three horizons model with the lean innovation overlay allows you to do that. A non-technical word or a phrase to describe an ambidextrous organisation is “you need to be able to chew gum and walk at the same time.” I mean obviously for a company to survive in the short-term it needs to be great at executing its current business model— great sales, great manufacturing, or engineering etc.

But to stay in business over the long term, you need a series of new products, new services etc. and that’s the chew gum part. And that’s what the phrase ambidextrous means: is that you have great leadership who can optimize profits and revenues for what you have now, but also great leadership who’s thinking about what are we building in the next two, three, five, 10 years. That makes a company ambidextrous.

And by the way that came from the phrase, ambidextrous organisation, came from two really smart business school professors, Charles O’Reilly at Stanford, and Michael Tushman at Harvard