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The Red Queen, Success Bias, and Organizational Inertia

Author

Listed:
  • William P. Barnett

    () (Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305)

  • Elizabeth G. Pontikes

    () (Graduate School of Business, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois 60637)

Abstract

Why do successful organizations often move in new directions and then fail? We propose that this pattern is especially likely among organizations that have survived a history of competition. Such experience adapts organizations to their environment, through so-called "Red Queen" evolution, but being well adapted for one context makes moving into new contexts more hazardous. Meanwhile, managers in such organizations infer from their histories of competitive success a biased assessment of their organization's ability to change. Consequently, although surviving competition makes organizational change especially hazardous, managers in surviving organizations are especially inclined to such initiatives. We develop these ideas in an empirically testable model, and find supportive evidence in estimates of the model using data from the history of the U.S. computer industry.

Suggested Citation

  • William P. Barnett & Elizabeth G. Pontikes, 2008. "The Red Queen, Success Bias, and Organizational Inertia," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 54(7), pages 1237-1251, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ormnsc:v:54:y:2008:i:7:p:1237-1251
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    File URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1287/mnsc.1070.0808
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. William P. Barnett & Aimee-Noelle Swanson & Olav Sorenson, 2003. "Asymmetric selection among organizations," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 12(4), pages 673-695, August.
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    4. Langlois, Richard N., 1992. "External Economies and Economic Progress: The Case of the Microcomputer Industry," Business History Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 66(01), pages 1-50, March.
    5. William P. Barnett & Olav Sorenson, 2002. "The Red Queen in organizational creation and development," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(2), pages 289-325.
    6. Herriott, Scott R & Levinthal, Daniel & March, James G, 1985. "Learning from Experience in Organizations," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(2), pages 298-302, May.
    7. James G. March & Zur Shapira, 1987. "Managerial Perspectives on Risk and Risk Taking," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 33(11), pages 1404-1418, November.
    8. Levinthal, Daniel & March, James G., 1981. "A model of adaptive organizational search," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 2(4), pages 307-333, December.
    9. Cynthia A. Montgomery & Birger Wernerfelt, 1988. "Diversification, Ricardian Rents, and Tobin's q," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 19(4), pages 623-632, Winter.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Paul F. Skilton & Ednilson Bernardes, 2015. "Competition network structure and product market entry," Strategic Management Journal, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(11), pages 1688-1696, November.
    2. Mary Beth Rousseau & Blake D. Mathias & Laura T. Madden & T. Russell Crook, 2016. "Innovation, Firm Performance, And Appropriation: A Meta-Analysis," International Journal of Innovation Management (ijim), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 20(03), pages 1-29, April.
    3. Hellerstedt, Karin & Wennberg, Karl & Frederiksen, Lars, 2014. "University Knowledge Spillovers & Regional Start-up Rates: Supply and Demand Side Factors," Ratio Working Papers 230, The Ratio Institute.
    4. Karl Wennberg & Karin Hellerstedt, 2011. "Evolution of knowledge intensive firms: a sociogeographic demand side perspective," ERSA conference papers ersa10p1585, European Regional Science Association.
    5. Richard Arend, 2013. "Ethics-focused dynamic capabilities: a small business perspective," Small Business Economics, Springer, vol. 41(1), pages 1-24, June.
    6. Trushin, Eshref & Ugur, Mehmet, 2018. "Ecosystem complexity, firm learning and survival: UK evidence on intra-industry age and size diversity as exit hazards," Greenwich Papers in Political Economy 19095, University of Greenwich, Greenwich Political Economy Research Centre.

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