Ruminations on process Raghu Garud Pennsylvania State University August 2011
Process vs. Variance • Longitudinal -- driven by questions about "how phenomena emerge” • Not efficient causality but generative causality
Innovation Processes are Complex • Multiple people artifacts and metrics – manifest complexity. • Ecology of interactions between these heterogeneous elements – relational complexity. • Full of ups and downs, false starts and dead ends, “backing & forthing” – temporal complexity.
Consequentially Ambiguity is generated endogenously and is manifest in: • blurred boundaries • shifting loci of action • emerging preferences • multiple & conflicting cues
And Practitioners have to commit to a course of action despite and even because of the ambiguity. From: Garud R. and Van de Ven A. H. 1992. "An empirical evaluation of the internal corporate venturing process" Strategic Management Journal, Vol. 13, 93-109.
How Address Boundary Problem? • One approach is to let field members inform us about emerging boundaries. • In my case, I attended conferences on cochlear implants where actor networks constituted and re-constituted the emerging fields through their entanglements.
These and other studies and others have led to insight on Innovation as: • Complex adaptive processes • Complex responsive processes • Complex becoming processes
Complex Adaptive Processes • Metaphors from an evolutionary perspective include -- search, landscape, selection environments, structural holes etc. • Context is largely exogenous. • Theorizing includes -- path dependence, absorptive capacity, punctuated equilibrium, two-stage dominant design, exaptation. • Implications for process research – follow and study shifts in landscapes over time.
An Example This figure shows the transition from one sociotechnical regime to another as a consequence of exogenous niche innovations and landscape changes, as depicted by Geels & Schot (2007).
Complex Responsive Processes • Metaphors from a relational perspective include -- interpretive flexibility, co-creation, translation. • Context is endogenized to yield a flat ontology (actor-network) that considers entanglements between social and material elements. • Theorizing includes -- path constitution, bricolage • Implications for process research – follow and study entanglements over time.
An Example This figure shows the emergence and transformation of the bicycle through the constitutive entanglement of the social and the material as depicted by Pinch & Bijker (1987).
Complex Becoming Processes • Metaphors from an intertemporal perspective include – distentio, diachrony, chronos & kairos, anticipation and recollection. • Time is endogenized to yield a Mobius strip of unfolding experiences. • Theorizing includes -- transformative capacity, improvisation, path creation. • Implications for process research – follow & study temporal agency.
An example This figure is a temporally emplotted diagram of the research in the human genome project. The figure appeared in Mane and Börner (2004).
Summary of Complexity Perspectives • Adapted from: • Garud, R., Gehman, J. and Kumaraswamy. A. (2011) Complexity Arrangements for Sustaining Innovation: Lessons from 3M Corporation. Organization Studies 32(6) 737–767. • Garud, R. and Gehman, J. (2011) “Metatheoretical perspectives on sustainability journeys: Evolutionary, relational and intertemporal.” Research Policy (forthcoming).
Conclusion • We first have to clarify what we mean by process to conduct meaningful process research. • It is both a matter of personal choice and social acceptance as to what kind of process research we conduct. • As we endogenize context, text and sub-text, process research becomes all the more challenging, but at the same time more rewarding.