ORGANIZATIONAL EVOLUTION Roots in Biological Evolution Theory • Charles Darwin & Alfred Wallace • Explanation of continuously emerging novel biological forms or attributes through population interactions with environments • Evolutionary theory describes the historical genealogies of species Randomnessof evolutionary paths - no progress toward an end-goal (teleology): the blind watchmaker & man is not the “Crown of Creation” Instead, developments are recurrent, cumulative, probabilistic patterns with unpredictable paths (yet open to post facto understanding)
Core Bio-Evolution Concepts • Population: Organisms that share a common gene pool (Speciesdf = actually or potentially interbreeding organisms) • Variation: Modifications of forms are produced by chance via mutations, genetic coding errors of individual organisms • Natural Selection:Reproduction & survival of organisms whose heritable traits are better suited to existing environmental conditions • Retention:Persistence within a population of the selected variation(s) over successive generations • “Descent with modification” (Darwin): parents transfer their genetically altered & selected traits to their offspring • Inheritance involves transfer of modified genetic codes, by not of individually acquired attributes (a.ka. Lamarckian evolution) What are org’l evolution equivalents to biological concepts?
Species Adapt to Fit Niches • Speciation: new populations of reproducing organisms capture scarce niche resources (“struggle for existence” within & between species) • Ecological Niche: environmental habit where a species lives and its functions within that biotic community (e.g., predator, prey) • Niche competition: Species struggle to adapt to conditions within local environments; but, only one species can occupy a given niche • Darwin found finches’ beaks modified to fit Galapagos Islands plants • Phenotype (outward physical traits) retained because of adaptive advantages enjoyed by individuals with superior survival and reproduction • Alpha gorillas acquire more mates than others • Faster cheetahs survive and reproduce • Genotype(internal inheritable info: the DNA code) retained when a phenotype survives encounters within its niche environment
Smooth or Jerky? Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould (1972) proposed a punctuated equilibrium theory of evolutionary rates. Evolutionary changes occur in relatively short bursts (millennia), interspersed with long periods of comparative stasis (millions of years). They attacked phyletic gradualism, the dominant idea of continually changing organisms, small degrees of adaptation to fit the environment. Fossil records show few intermediate forms, implying that many species change very little after their initial appearance. Many new species can emerge quickly after mass extinctions, such as the Yucatan asteroid collision that killed off most of the dinosaurs, opening diverse ecological niches for mammal species to populate. Just horsin’ around…
Sociocultural Evolution After Darwin’s Origin of Species (1859), social scientists tried to apply biological principles to explain sociocultural evolution “Social Darwinism” ideology asserted that the fittest races & cultures inevitably dominate, thus justifying 19th c. Euro-American imperialism Spencer’s Larmarckian evolution posited a slow, steady progress toward equilibrium as individuals changed their habits, eventually achieving perfect adaptation. Spencer popularized the notorious phrase “survival of the fittest.” • Theorists depicted increasingly advanced societies & cultures, typically because of technological innovations • Morgan & Tylor: savagery, barbarism, civilization • Marx: ancient, feudal, capitalist, socialist-communist • Lenski: hunter-gatherer, horticultural, agrarian, industrial Herbert Spencer • Continuity with sociobiology & evolutionary psychology (Wilson; Dawkins) • “Selfish genes” (DNA making DNA) determine all human behavior, culture, morality
Organizational Evolution • Can biological evolutionary principles be adapted or modified to explain the origins and proliferation of new organizational forms (speciation)? • Is org’l evolution a metaphor or an explanatory theory? • Darwinian inheritance or Lackmarckian acquired traits? • What analogies to core biological concepts: species (org’l form), population, inheritance, generation, genes? Org’l evolutionary theory must identify the variation-selection-retention mechanisms that create and spread new org’l forms. • Market profit main selection mechanism for business orgs: economic market efficiency selects which firms will survive • Professional judgments and political processes predominate in selecting other forms (nonprofit, public, voluntary, SMO)
Three Sources of Org’l Variation Three sets of processes affect the emergence of new org’l forms at the population level (Romanelli 1991; Rao 1998) • Organizational genetics: random variation in form occurs during everyday org’l activities • Are org’l comps & routines really the equivalent of genes? • Environmental conditioning/constrained variation: external sociopolitical forces create new resource spaces not occupied by current org’l forms, and constrain or facilitate the popular legitimation of the new forms • Social systems/cultural frame: variation induced by embedded social-organizational interactions; resourceful actors see new org’l forms as an “opportunity to realize highly valued interests” (Amburgey & Singh 2002:333)
Genetic Sources • Org’l genetics emphasizes transmissible & communicable characteristic traits selected by environmental conditions • Bill McKelvey (1982; McKelvey & Aldrich 1983) proposed a schema for classifying org’l forms according to their dominant “comps” (competence elements). Populations are polythetic clusters of orgs with similar dominant comps that are transferable among members. • Comps:basic knowledge and skills, carried in individual minds, transmitted via communication & personnel exchanges with other organizations • EX Technologies, procedural guidelines, patents, job descriptions, premiums, determined prescriptions Evolutionary change involves new (re)combinations of dominant comps, selected at the population level Comps are org’l analogs to biological genes; “Compool” = genotype
A Taxonomy of Forms McKelvey urged application of biological taxonomic methods to cluster multiple org’l attributes, generating “family tree” of org’l forms revealing a Darwinian descent-with-modification. EX Ancient Mesopatamian floods, wars, population shifts created, selected & retained numerous new forms Temples Palaces Commercials Professionals FIGURE HERE
Routines Richard Nelson & Sidney Winter (1982) developed evolutionary economics using computer simulations of industry growth. Evolution produces monopoly: firms selected because differing profit rates yield varied growth. But, entry of new firms into industry restrains monopoly, as can innovation-imitation processes that increase productivity variation among firms. Org’l routines a major source of genetic variation. • Routines: formal and tacit rules or capabilities internal to an org that affect its activities & productivity • Standard operating routines governing existing resource stocks • Investment routines responding to changing profits, growth • Search routines for innovative technologies (R&D) Routine is equivalent to gene, but org is analog to species phenotype
Environmental Sources Environmental conditioning sources of variation are diverse external constraints on potential for new org’l forms to emerge • Technology is a major driving force creating macro-economic growth (capital intensity, real wages). Innovations create new niches for new org’l forms to enter & exploit • Technical advance fuels macroeconomic growth (Nelson) • Business firms are technology carriers by applying scientific ideas (patents) • Co-evolution “coupled evolution of multiple populations or forms” (Amburgey & Singh). Orgs & environments also co-evolve via reciprocal influence • EX: SMO protest repertoires evolve to cope with changes in state supression technologies (Internet fundraising, protest scheduling)
Sociocultural Sources • Social systemic and cultural sources of form variation arise by intentional design as org’l participants “actively attempt to generate alternatives and seek solutions to problems” (Aldrich 1999:22) • Internal search behavior for solutions to unusual problems • Planned transfers of personnel to diffuse practices • Formal programs, incentives to reward innovative behavior • Strategic alliances to acquire partner’s know-how • Entrepreneurial outsiders enter industry to found new orgs • Identitiesandlegitimacy maybe created by collective action • EX Professional societies, business assns, labor unions
Historical Legacies • Imprinting:org’l forms fixed by environmental conditions during a founding era (Stinchcombe 1965) • EX: Construction companies reflect 19th c. family-based practices • Path dependence: initial random events often constrain an org’s later options (history does matter) • Once launched down one path, retracing or switching routes becomes increasingly difficult due to sunk costs • Dynamic increasing returns & cumulative technologies reinforces commitment to stay on the initial path • Complementary interdependencies among technologies • EX: Software compatibility with hardware (Apple vs MS) • However, locked-in technologies aren’t necessarily optimal • QWERTY typewriter; Betamax VCR; MS-DOS
References Eldredge, Niles and Stephen Jay Gould. 1971. “Speciation and Punctuated Equilibria: An Alternative to Phyletic Gradualism.” Pp. 82-115 in Models in Paleobiology, edited by T.J.M. Schopf. San Francisco: Freeman Cooper. McKelvey, Bill. 1982. Organizational Systematics: Taxonomy, Evolution, Classification. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. McKelvey, Bill and Howard E. Aldrich. 1983. “Populations, Natural Selection, and Applied Organizational Science.” Administrative Science Quarterly 28:101-128. Nelson, Richard and Sidney Winter.1982. An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Romanelli, Elaine. 1991. “The Evolution of New Organizational Forms.” Annual Review of Sociology 17:79-103. Stinchcombe, Arthur. 1965. “Organizations and Social Structure.” Pp. 142-193 in Handbook of Organizations, edited by James G. March. Chicago: Rand McNally.