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The Platform Organization: Recombining Strategies, Structures, and Surprises


  • Claudia U. Ciborra

    (Uniuersitá di Bologna Theseus, BP169, 06903 Sophia Antipolis Cedex, France)


The global technology strategy of Olivetti, a leading European computer firm, is analyzed over the last decade in order to illustrate how high-tech firms undergo transformations which not only tend to destroy their best core competencies, but also affect their very business identity. Task uncertainty is so pronounced that conventional ways of looking at the organizational structures and processes, such as the transaction costs approach or the strategy-structure link, need to be amended in favor of a more dynamic perspective. Such a perspective looks at organizations as platforms, or contexts, out of which specific structures arc extracted, tried out and discarded in a pragmatic manner. A platform is a meta-organization, a formative context that molds structures, and routines shaping them into well-known forms, such as the hierarchy, the matrix and even the network, but on a highly volatile basis. Hence, the platform organization may appear to be confused and inefficient but its value lies in its readiness to sport whatever organizational form is required under the circumstances Platforms are characterized by surprises, and organization members, no matter how they see them-selves after the fact, are busy improvising and tinkering. Drawing on similar studies carried out in Silicon Valley, one can draw the conclusion that high-tech firms can survive if they are smart at doing what “savages do daily,” i.e., bricolage.

Suggested Citation

  • Claudia U. Ciborra, 1996. "The Platform Organization: Recombining Strategies, Structures, and Surprises," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 7(2), pages 103-118, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:inm:ororsc:v:7:y:1996:i:2:p:103-118

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    Cited by:

    1. Wu, Liang & Liu, Heng & Zhang, Jianqi, 2017. "Bricolage effects on new-product development speed and creativity: The moderating role of technological turbulence," Journal of Business Research, Elsevier, vol. 70(C), pages 127-135.
    2. Stenholm, Pekka & Renko, Maija, 2016. "Passionate bricoleurs and new venture survival," Journal of Business Venturing, Elsevier, vol. 31(5), pages 595-611.
    3. repec:eee:jbrese:v:85:y:2018:i:c:p:484-493 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Davide Consoli & Pier Paolo Patrucco, 2011. "Complexity and the Coordination of Technological Knowledge: The Case of Innovation Platforms," Chapters,in: Handbook on the Economic Complexity of Technological Change, chapter 8 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    5. Mélodie Cartel & Eva Boxenbaum & Franck Aggeri, 2014. "Experimentation And Bricolage On Institutions: Understanding The Selection Of New Arrangements," Post-Print hal-01089472, HAL.
    6. repec:eee:jbrese:v:79:y:2017:i:c:p:290-298 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. repec:kap:jinten:v:15:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s10843-017-0200-9 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:7:p:2387-:d:157032 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Sunduramurthy, Chamu & Zheng, Congcong & Musteen, Martina & Francis, John & Rhyne, Lawrence, 2016. "Doing more with less, systematically? Bricolage and ingenieuring in successful social ventures," Journal of World Business, Elsevier, vol. 51(5), pages 855-870.
    10. Mélodie Cartel & Eva Boxenbaum & Franck Aggeri, 2014. "Policy making as bricolage: the role of platforms in institutional innovation," Post-Print hal-01089462, HAL.
    11. Alexander S. Alexiev & Justin J. P. Jansen & Frans A. J. Van den Bosch & Henk W. Volberda, 2010. "Top Management Team Advice Seeking and Exploratory Innovation: The Moderating Role of TMT Heterogeneity," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(7), pages 1343-1364, November.
    12. repec:spr:jorgde:v:7:y:2018:i:1:d:10.1186_s41469-017-0026-x is not listed on IDEAS
    13. repec:spr:grdene:v:26:y:2017:i:5:d:10.1007_s10726-017-9529-7 is not listed on IDEAS
    14. Grazia Concilio & Anna Moro, 0. "Trading Zones and Public Spaces Transformations the Case of Piazza Leonardo in Milan," Group Decision and Negotiation, Springer, vol. 0, pages 1-19.

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    change; tinkering; structure; surprises;


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