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.
Roots in Biological Evolution Theory
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)
What are org’l evolution equivalents to biological concepts?
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…
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.”
Org’l evolutionary theory must identify the variation-selection-retention mechanisms that create and spread new org’l forms.
Three sets of processes affect the emergence of new org’l forms at the population level (Romanelli 1991; Rao 1998)
Evolutionary change involves new (re)combinations of dominant comps, selected at the population level
Comps are org’l analogs to biological genes; “Compool” = genotype
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
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.
Routine is equivalent to gene, but org is analog to species phenotype
Environmental conditioning sources of variation are diverse external constraints on potential for new org’l forms to emerge
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.