Multi-Level Co-Evolution and Organisational Complexity in Management Studies

13th EURAM Conference, Istanbul, Turkey, June 2013


Organizational Evolution. Past and Present Avenues of the Research Domain

Gianpaolo Abatecola (Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy)
Over the second half of the 20th century, a great contribution to the studying of the relationship between organizations and their competitive environment has been provided by the continuous flourishing of the management literature about organizational evolution. To date, this literature appears as mature enough to warrant the discussion of its findings and this timely critical review aims at informing on how it has been developing over time and what gaps still exist within it. All the review is structured around the core concept of considering organizational evolution as a per se research domain, whose boundaries the review addresses since the beginning. The review then evaluates the current state of knowledge as for two specific sub-fields of this domain: organizational adaptation and organizational survival. It ends by discussing what, more generally, can come next for evolutionary research in the management field. The contents of the review make it intended not only for all those who are interested in studying organizational behaviour through the use of evolutionary lenses, but, much more generally, to all those management scholars and business practitioners who want to improve their knowledge about a number of behavioural dynamics regarding the selective relationship between organizations and their competitive environments.


Hierarchical and Cladistic Classifications of Manufacturing Systems: A Basis for Applying Generalised Darwinism?

James Baldwin (University of Sheffield, UK), Christen Rose Anderssen (University of Sheffield, UK) and Keith Ridgway (University of Sheffield, UK)
The twofold aim of the research reported here is firstly, to present comprehensive classification systems applicable to the wide-ranging systems of manufacturing; and secondly, to provide a basis for discussion around the ideas of Generalised Darwinism in order to strengthen the theoretical framework around the classification work. For the first part of the aim, several objectives would also be achieved: 1) by organising the various manufacturing species and their character states will help make sense of manufacturing variety and presents potential opportunities for change and survival; 2) a graphical presentation of knowledge on manufacturing complexity - a tool for enlightening the understanding of the change process that connects the development of manufacturing processes and technologies; 3) the development of a useful benchmarking tool so manufacturing organisations locate where they are in evolutionary history, identify where they want to be, and how to get there. The classifications will form the basis for the next practical step of the research – the COPERNICO project’s web-based expert system and diagnostic tool for the rapid design and virtual prototyping of factories of the future ( For the second part of the aim, looking at the classification work through the lens of Generalised Darwinism, firstly has the potential of strengthening the classification work but also provides an opportunity of strengthening Generalised Darwinsim with the consideration of empirical data.


Brokerage as Catalysis: How Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes Escalated Modernism

Stoyan Sgourev (ESSEC Business School, France)
It is frequently noted that there are few bridges linking micro- and macro- levels in network research and that structural developments are decoupled from individual brokerage. This paper proposes one way to reduce this discrepancy - by relaxing the assumption of control exercised by brokers over their ecology, recognizing that in establishing connections, brokers may set in motion chains of interaction whose ripple effects foster structural change that is not anticipated or explicitly pursued. The role of the broker as a “catalyst” is suggested in past research, but is not explicitly developed. It is delineated here across two dimensions – a structural one, where brokers serve as a conduit for the concatenation of disconnected networks, and a psychological one – when serving as a role model and inciting others to take greater risks. These are illustrated through the case of the Ballets Russes (1909-1929), headed by Sergei Diaghilev, who developed a completely new genre, revolutionizing the performing arts. The lasting contribution of Diaghilev’s was in his orchestration of a network of “modernist” collaborators and in the alliance of radical form with an older social ideology that helped reconcile the French elite with the new art. Yet, in so doing he nurtured his own competition, gradually losing his preeminence.


Managing heterochronous organization complexities in state governance: the case of Singapore’s Total Fertility Rate (TRF), its “Baby Bonus Scheme” and “Singapore Incorporated”

Cheryl Marie Cordeiro (University of Gothenburg, Sweden).
The past decade has seen an increasing number of calls within the field of organization science to study the dynamics of organization developments against both historical and multiple social dimensions that influence organization evolution. While the structures and governance of future organizations can only be hypothesized, there remains a need for a trajectorial understanding in how organizations might function in future, given the current complexities of differential organizational developments within the same organization, due to the processes of globalization. The concept of heterochrony and the managing of heterochronous complexities in organization is the broad focus of this study. In particular, the study focuses on the country of Singapore and two of its national discourses, (I) Singapore’s Total Fertility Rate (TFR), the government’s “Baby Bonus Scheme” and (II) “Singapore Incorporated”, discussing how the “Baby Bonus Scheme” straddles the two seemingly differential time development of state ideologies and the extent of its success in relation to its own projected economic goals, as a means of managing heterochrony in Singapore.


Exploring the evolution of an evolutionary management discourse: Automatic concept extraction with Text2Onto

Stephen Dobson (Sheffield Hallam University, UK)
The purpose of this paper is to explore and evaluate automatic methods of establishing concept relevance from text as applied to the modelling of multi-agent discourse. Using Text2Onto, a probabilistic approach to ontology modelling and textual analysis, the investigation provides the first stage in a broader programme concerned with the evolution of cyber-narratives through the interaction of agents. In this initial and exploratory stage of work knowledge extraction from text, in the form of automatic identification of key concepts and their probability of relevance to group discussion, underpins the semi-automatic construction of shared group ontology. The European Academy of Management (EURAM) ‘Evolutionary Approaches’ conference tracks 2010-2012 provide the illustrative source data for this study. By comparing changes in concept relevance and proposed ontological structures over time observations on the evolving nature of this management discourse are presented.


The extended narrotype: adaptation and stasis in spatial evolution

Ilfryn Price (Sheffield Hallam University, UK) and Colin Beard (Sheffield Hallam University, UK)
We present the proposition that features of work spaces, in both learning spaces and offices, might be considered as the memetic or linguistic analogue of extended phenotypes. We demonstrate a synchronicity in theorising about, on the one hand processes of cognition and learning, and on the other about the design of physical space in our two chosen contexts. The actual physical expression lags the theory in both because, we argue, it reflects the narratives of both powerful occupiers of the space and the professional departments responsible for provision of same. The results are compatible with, and an independent argument for, a ‘narrative ecology’ perspective on organisations. Our intention here is the theory however the results have relevance both to accelerating learning and democratizing management. They argue for the spatial dimension to organisational studies as a subset of research and practice in organisational Darwinism.


Modeling Multi-Level Co-Evolution and Organizational Adaptation

Dermot Breslin (University of Sheffield, UK)
Whilst past research has explored the notion of co-evolution in organizations, few have drawn from theoretical insights made in other domains of study such as biology and cultural evolution. This paper seeks to make a contribution towards this project, by developing an agent-based simulation model of multi-level co-evolution within an organization, with a view towards shedding new light on organizational adaptation. Unlike previous studies of this nature, this study focuses on the co-evolution of behavior at multiple-levels between interacting individuals, based on the evolutionary mechanisms of variation, selection and retention. It is argued that incremental, punctuated and chaotic patterns of aggregate organizational behavior are seen to arise from the same core building blocks of variation-selection-retention. Navigating between the competing tensions of exploration and exploitation thus involves managing evolutionary processes at multiple levels within the organization.


The Importance of Similarity as a Precursor of Behaviour on Social Networks and Team Performance

Maria Pilar Marques (University of Leon, Spain) and Maria F. Muñoz Doyague (University of Leon, Spain)
This study aims for a better understanding about how individual’s position in the social networks of his/her team affects to his/her perception regarding the performance of his/her work team. Specifically, two hypotheses are posited which relate the worker’s level of prestige in the Advice Social Network and in the Motivation Social Network with a performance variable developed for this research. We test them among 196 employees from the health care system. Results confirm the importance of the actor’s position in the network when s/he assesses team performance. Moreover, the findings bring into relief the importance of similarity on employees’ behaviour, as this aspect has conditioned the separate study of two sub-networks in each team, depending on the position held by the workers in it.


Unpacking the Evolving Organizational Routine

Dermot Breslin (University of Sheffield, UK)
The routine has become as a key concept in the study of organizational change over the past few decades. While initially viewed as a static phenomenon, associated with organizational inertia, a more recent adaptive view has emerged, subsuming concepts such as cognitive heuristics and frameworks. This paper calls for an unpacking of this newly emerging adaptive routine, viewing the concept as part of a hierarchy of interrelated recurring phenomena which together can act to resist or facilitate change over time.


Systematic Review of Research on Value Co-creation in Digital Social Media for Open Innovation

Balaji Gopalan (University of Vaasa, Finland) and Marko Kohtamäki (University of Vaasa, Finland)
Industries are seeking new ways to improve organizational productivity by utilizing Open
Innovation models in the use of inbound and outbound technology. Organizations need to involve themselves in ensuring strategic goal setting; sourcing, integrating, resourcing and quantifying their objectives with the external environment. Traditional industries rely on networked structures of stakeholders and consumers; and emerging intermediate markets are playing a key role in defining market growth, product, process and consumer needs. Virtual environments such as the internet and mobile technologies are extending traditional innovation models by facilitating open innovation platforms for consumer engagement in value co-creation. Research literature on value co-creation in social media is growing rapidly but is quite dispersed. They lack systematic reviews which would enable analysis of the existing body of studies and help consolidate findings for future knowledge development and motivate future conceptual contributions. Our systematic literature review examines ten years of prior empirical and conceptual research by conducting a causal analysis of the perceived antecedents, processes and outcomes of value co-creation within the context of social media. The findings enable us to assess the interdepending processes and outcomes of product, service or content engagement in social media and its relevance to the future of innovation.


Adatp or Disrupt? A Co-Evolutionary View on Environmental Change and Innovation Strategies

Murat Tarakci (Rotterdam School of Management, Netherlands) and Fabian Sting (Rotterdam School of Management, Netherlands)

Should organizations disrupt their environment or adapt to it? Scholars in organizational adaptation recommend firms to increase the fit with their current environment. In contrast, competitive dynamics scholars propose to disrupt the environment. Using an agent-based simulation model, we show that, on the one hand, comparisons with past performance direct an organization towards adaptive strategies. On the other hand, relative performance differences between an organization and its competitors motivate the organization to follow disruptive strategies. These aspirational differences explain how organizations decide between disruptive or adaptive strategies, and reconcile the conflicting propositions of earlier research.


Interaction and actors' roles in local systems

Simone Guercini (University of Florence, Italy) and Andrea Runfola (University of Perugia, Italy)
This paper aims at studying of the role of the focal firm in local communities. The article starts from a review of the literature in order to frame the concepts of local network and focal firm. Two key concepts, related to that of interaction, are then discussed: teaching and learning. The article proposes a taxonomy of the interactions and the roles systems that the focal firm can establish. The status of focal actor for innovation in a network stems, not from an ‘a priori’ central strategic role on which the actor builds its interactions, but ‘a posteriori’, from the actor’s previously recognized roles in interactions on which network innovation is based. Research implications regard three main aspects: (1) the different roles in the interactions; (2) the types of actors in the local system; (3) the types of local systems involved in the processes of innovation.

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