Evolutionary Approaches in Business & Management Research

14th EURAM Conference, Valencia, Spain, June 2014


From Record Stores to On-Demand Music Streaming: A Case Study of the Evolution of a Distribution System

Johan Kask (Örebro University School of Business, Sweden)
The paper addresses a case study of the evolution of the music distribution system in Sweden from distribution of physical records, primarily retailed in specialist record stores, racks and department stores, to digital steaming on-demand via services such as Spotify and Youtube. The case study covers three distinct eras over thirty years, 1983-2013. The paper contributes to the discussion of whether evolution is a slow and gradual process of equal speed or a process where equilibrium-like situations are punctuated with sudden “shocks” of greater amplitude leading systems to exhibit more dramatically net evolutionary change in limited time frames. Being true to a Darwinian perspective, this study applies a multi-level systems view, and shows how “evolution of variation, selection, retention” can be complemented with a punctuated equilibrium model.


Organizational Infancy and the “Liability of Newness”. A Multiple-Case Narrative

Gianpaolo Abatecola (Tor Vergata University, Rome, Italy), and Vincenzo Uli (Tor Vergata University, Rome, Italy)
How can newborn firms survive to the high mortality rates associated with their infancy? To date, shedding substantive light on this lively – and still unaddressed from many aspects – question is undoubtedly crucial for both the research and practice of management. Thus, this attempt constitutes the core of this article, that is positioned within the organizational evolution research field in general, and within that of evolutionary entrepreneurship in particular. In this regard, the article can contribute to the prospected discussion through presenting an easy-to-read multiple case narrative, collected from 6 different successful stories of infant organizational survival mainly in the European and US context. The article has been specifically conjectured to meet not only the research-oriented, but also the practice-oriented readership, thus the tone of its narrative is deliberately discursive.


The Routinization of Group Behavior and the Evolution of Ideas

Dermot Breslin (University of Sheffield, UK)
Recent research in experimental psychology has pointed to difficulties and limitations of creative processes in groups and in particular how ideas are generated and selected. However if developing group behaviors stifle creativity, then how can the rapid growth in cultural evolution over the last 10 millennia be explained? To address this gap, this research focused on the Coevolutionary processes of innovation and emerging group behavior. Experimental workshops were carried out in which 28 groups comprising 134 participants completed a series of creativity exercises over a period of three weeks. Findings from the study show that emerging group routines facilitate the evolution of ideas, leading to greater productivity in idea generation and more divergent forms of thinking. These findings therefore point to the role of groups as facilitators of innovation, painting a very different picture to that portrayed by recent experimental research in social psychology.


Evaluating the Meme Concept: the Case for a Cultural Optimon

Jameson Gill (Sheffield Hallam University, UK)
This article describes an empirically based evaluation of the meme concept. Memes are the potential ‘engines’ of evolutionary processes in organisations. However, a lack of consensus in meme theory frustrates its application and the operationalisation of the concept in empirical memetic studies. This study adopts the first extra-memetic empirical method that has been applied to the discipline. To orientate the study, the optimon definition of a replicator is highlighted as vital to a critical evaluation of memes. To adopt the optimon concept, a two-step narrative method is applied. First, written accounts of competing cultural strategies are constructed. Second, the strategies are analysed to reveal points of competition which can be defined in relation to each other. One such optimon unit is discussed in light of meme theory. The findings support the possibility of unitary culture but do not support the notion of selfish replication in culture.


Organizational Darwinism and Research Methodology

Ilfryn Price (Sheffield Business School, UK)
We argue that research methodologies in organizational studies provide an example of cultural evolution but that the resulting dominant logic impedes understanding by militating against realistic inductive research. We examine major 'schools' in organizational Darwinism / cultural evolution and identify overlap between those who use evolutionary dynamics as a relativist lens, the more classically positivist thinking derived from Evolutionary Economics and Darwin's original (1871) conceptual or constructive cultural evolution We then take Darwin's inductive assembly of facts and test existing research that has used an evolutionary perspective against the various strands of his "one long argument"


Managing the Evolution of Entrepreneurial Urban Development through Complexity: A Comparison of Deterministic and Entropic Urban Growth Models

Stephen Dobson (Sheffield Hallam University, UK) and Daniel Zachary (Sheffield Hallam University, UK)
As the world faces increasing uncertainty over its environmental and economic future the sustainability and resilience of urban communities and their adaptability to uncertainty have become a key concern for decision-makers. Sustainable urban development in the age of austerity may increasingly rely on entrepreneurial policy, governance and practice, greater public and private collaboration in shaping urban life, and a shift toward devolved responsibility for urban development more generally. Some would argue that a greater democratization of urban space requires a planning paradigm which embraces the uncertainty and complexity of agonistic ‘conflict’ in shaping urban development. However, this also opens new practical challenges concerning the modelling and visualization of a stochastic of urban growth. Perspectives drawn from both Landscape Urbanism and Entrepreneurial Urbanism are explored as a context for the modeling of entropic versus deterministic urban growth. The modeling exercise presented here, which focuses on the urban development of Sheffield from 1400 to the present, offers a means to visualize development dynamics based upon a population-driven cost-value parameterization of land conversion. Three statistics models are developed to explore the nature of evolution of urban space; these include an entropic, deterministic, and a hybrid model. A diversity indicator, comparable to informational (Shannon) entropy is used to compare the evolution. The development of the model is a valuable technical exercise and it is asserted here that it may help provide the building blocks for modeling various forms of urban entropic processes. It also reported upon as a means to encourage debate about methods and approaches for managing through complexity. The model uniquely incorporates a lengthy time-period of analysis since this enables dramatic population increase to be incorporated into urban development models.


Organizational Routines, Geographic Spaces and their Adaptation to Rapid Environmental Changes

Miguel Gómez-uranga (university of the Basque Country, Spain), and Jon Mikel Zabala-iturriagagoitia (University of Deusto, Spain)
In this article, our aim is to study how firms and territories adapt to very fast qualitatively major changes in the environment. As opposed to the prevalent Darwinian approach in which the logic of the phenotype takes shape as a “slow and moderate” adaptation of social organizations to changes, our view focuses mainly on rapid adaptation to quickly changing environments. The concept of Epigenetic Economic Dynamics (EED) is understood as the study of the epigenetic dynamics generated as a result of the adaptation of organizations to major changes in their respective environments. The concept shows its highest explanatory power in rapidly changing environments, which entail fast organizational moves and/or decisions. The concept of EED was originally designed to explain the changes generated in Internet industry groups. As a result of the study, the part dealing with the results of economic systems, innovation, legal changes, regulations and morals induced by the epigenetic dynamics of organizations was configured and expanded. Three related points of attention could be cited as where to focus analyses concerning organizations’ adaptation to changing environments: The mechanics of change “in routines”; the “necessary capabilities” that organizations require; and “the resulting dynamics” observed in them. The adaptation to changes in the environment in each case makes it possible to study these three approaches in a related manner. The use of the concept of resilience in regional economics is increasingly widespread. In the resilience framework, adaptive capacity takes shape as a key structural component. In this paper we establish an analogy between firms and national or regional spaces so that the activities, resources, routines and paths observed in firms can determine their fast adaptation to rapid changes in the environment or, on the contrary, make this adaptation impossible.


Cladistic Analysis of Cognitive Maps

Gail Clarkson (University of Leeds, UK), and Mike Kelly (Mandrake Technology, UK)
This paper presents a new perspective on the quantitative analysis of cognitive maps based on cladistics; methods used in evolutionary studies to group organisms that have evolved shared or similar characteristics. Generalized Darwinism is presented and its applicability to social cognitive theory explained and investigated in an exploratory set of 15 cognitive maps. Generalized Darwinism would infer that we would expect individuals who had worked together in an organizational context to evolve their cognitive maps through observational learning/modelling such that the level of similarity between their maps would be related to the length of time they have been exposed to the organisation in-situ. In cladistic terms we would expect to see this in the form of a taxon (group) with some common value of length of observational learning/modelling exposure. The results reveal distinct taxon differences based on length of service. The implications for research and theory testing and development are discussed.

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