Thorny issues of BlackBerry use

BlackBerry use is on the rise and the way people are using this palm-sized email device is having a significant impact, according to UNSW research.

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BlackBerry use is on the rise and the palm-sized wireless email device can increasingly make or break a business, according to world-first research from the collaborative efforts of UNSW's Australian School of Business (ASB) and Sydney University.

The research, co-authored by the ASB's Dr Judi MacCormick, and Dr Kristine Dery from the University of Sydney, explores how BlackBerry use can help businesses achieve the newest Holy Grail - organisational ambidexterity (OA).

OA is a company's ability to balance often conflicting internal and external demands at the same time as balancing the need for flexibility and control.

According to a model developed by Dr MacCormick, businesses that successfully juggle multiple climates: of involvement, adaptability, consistency and mission -ambidextrous companies - perform better.

Dr MacCormick says that the way the BlackBerry is used can have a significant impact by helping companies to strengthen weak areas such as market or employee focus and give desired flexibility and control.

But she warns that 24/7 connectivity can go sour, especially when bosses expect employees to be as on-call as they are.

"Positive climates of involvement and adaptability can quickly turn into over-involvement, addiction, and diffusion - where your sense of control becomes watered-down because you are in constant contact," she says.

Dr MacCormick warns against knee jerk reactions to BlackBerry over-use that may result in the devices being banned in specific places or at particular times.

Instead what is needed, she says, is a more strategic approach. In the current tight employment market, companies that foster a good environment of BlackBerry use will automatically reap the rewards.