evolutionary organization theory

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Definition

Strategy-making and evolutionary organization theory -- (Source: Burgelman, 2002, p 6-7).
Evolutionary organization theory uses four generic processes -- variation, selection, retention, and competition -- to explain how organizations emerge and evolve. Dissecting strategy-making in terms of these key processes serves two purposes: First, it facilitates integrating strategy-making as adaptive organizational capability into evolutionary theory. Second, it illuminates facets of strategy-making that other theoretical perspectives do not contemplate.

Each company is an ecology within which strategic initiatives emerge in patterned ways. Top management drives most initiatives but leaders throughout the organization also drive initiatives. These initiatives compete for limited organizational resources to increase their relative importance.

  • Variation comes about as individuals (or small groups) seek expression of their special skills and career advancement through different strategic initiatives. These initiatives draw on existing and/or new competencies and routines and take shape if they are able to draw the company's resources to their development.
  • Selection works through administrative and cultural mechanisms that regulate the allocation of resources and attention to different strategic initiatives.
  • Retention concerns the initiatives that survive in the external environment and grow to become important within the company. It also takes the form of organizational-level learning about the factors that account for the company's success.
  • Internal competition arises from different strategic initiatives struggling to obtain resources necessary to grow and increase in importance in the company. Internal competition between strategic initiatives can be more or less tightly linked to the external competition that these initiatives encounter.


Strategy-making framework in line with the evolutionary organization theory --
Strategy-making that is in line with the evolutionary organization theory addresses the need to both replicate and transform the company, tailoring the approach to the strategic dynamics encountered by the company. The frameworks employed are described in evolutionary organization strategy framework, which describes the three tools involved. Tool I serves as a lens into the dynamic forces driving firm evolution, Tool II is an evolutionary framework of the strategy-making process in established firms which integrates an autonomous strategy process and induced strategy process, and Tool III is a process model of internal corporate venturing.

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