Imitation of Complex Strategies
Researchers examining loosely coupled systems, knowledge management, and complementary practices in organizations have proposed, informally, that the complexity of a successful business strategy can deter imitation of the strategy. This paper explores this proposition rigorously. A simple model is developed that parametrizes the two aspects of strategic complexity: the number of elements in a strategy and the interactions among those elements. The model excludes conventional resource-based and game-theoretic barriers to imitation altogether. The model is used to show that complexity makes the search for an optimal strategy intractable in the technical sense of the word provided by the theory of NP-completeness. Consequently, would-be copycats must rely on search heuristics or on learning, not on algorithmic "solutions," to match the performance of superior firms. However, complexity also undermines heuristics and learning. In the face of complexity, firms that follow simple hill-climbing heuristics are quickly snared on low "local peaks," and firms that try to learn and mimic a high performer's entire strategy suffer large penalties from small errors. The model helps to explain why some winning strategies remain unmatched even though they are open to public scrutiny; why certain bundles of organizational practices diffuse slowly even though they lead to superior performance; and why some strategies yield superior returns even after many of their critical ingredients are adopted by competitors. The analysis also suggests roles for management science and managerial choice in a world of complex strategies.
Volume (Year): 46 (2000)
Issue (Month): 6 (June)
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: 7240 Parkway Drive, Suite 300, Hanover, MD 21076 USA|
Web page: http://www.informs.org/
More information through EDIRC
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Tyre, Marcie J., 1991. "Managing the introduction of new process technology: International differences in a multi-plant network," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 20(1), pages 57-76, February.
- Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1995. "Complementarities and fit strategy, structure, and organizational change in manufacturing," Journal of Accounting and Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2-3), pages 179-208, April.
- Mansfield, Edwin, 1985. "How Rapidly Does New Industrial Technology Leak Out?," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 34(2), pages 217-23, December.
- Ingemar Dierickx & Karel Cool, 1989. "Asset Stock Accumulation and Sustainability of Competitive Advantage," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 35(12), pages 1504-1511, December.
- Ingemar Dierickx & Karel Cool, 1989. "Asset Stock Accumulation and the Sustainability of Competitive Advantage: Reply," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 35(12), pages 1514-1514, December.
- Milgrom, Paul & Roberts, John, 1990. "The Economics of Modern Manufacturing: Technology, Strategy, and Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 80(3), pages 511-28, June.
- Waring, Geoffrey F, 1996. "Industry Differences in the Persistence of Firm-Specific Returns," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(5), pages 1253-65, December.
- S.A. Lippman & R.P. Rumelt, 1982. "Uncertain Imitability: An Analysis of Interfirm Differences in Efficiency under Competition," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 13(2), pages 418-438, Autumn.
- Ichniowski, Casey & Shaw, Kathryn & Prennushi, Giovanna, 1997. "The Effects of Human Resource Management Practices on Productivity: A Study of Steel Finishing Lines," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(3), pages 291-313, June.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:46:y:2000:i:6:p:824-844. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Mirko Janc)
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.