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Are Technology-Intensive Industries More Dynamically Competitive? No and Yes


  • Vaaler, Paul M.

    (U of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)

  • McNamara, Gerry

    (Michigan State U)


A growing body of research in management and related public policy fields concludes that the 1980s and 1990s saw greater dynamic competition throughout technology-intensive ("TI") industries, with wide-spread, steady increase in TI industry and business performance instability as principal consequences. We test for evidence of these consequences in a large sample of US businesses operating from 1978-1997 in 31 industries with high average R&D expenditure-to-sales ratios. In the full sample, we find no evidence of sustained increase in TI industry and business performance instability, nor any evidence of significant cross-sectional differences in performance instability between TI and non-TI industry businesses over these 20 years. For a small segment of very high-performing businesses from TI industries, however, we do uncover evidence of both significantly declining performance stability as well as evidence of significant cross-sectional differences in performance stability compared to similarly high-performing businesses from non-TI industries over 20 years. We conclude that assumptions of wide-spread, long-term increase in dynamic competition lack robust evidentiary support. It is premature to embrace and apply broadly new theoretical perspectives, management practices and public policies to TI industry competitive dynamics that may be little changed since the late 1970s. Yet, we find evidence of increasing dynamic competition within the strict boundary conditions of very high-performing TI industry businesses. Careful application of new perspectives, practices and policies within these boundary conditions may contribute significantly and substantially to explanations of business behavior and performance in TI industries.

Suggested Citation

  • Vaaler, Paul M. & McNamara, Gerry, 2006. "Are Technology-Intensive Industries More Dynamically Competitive? No and Yes," Working Papers 06-0124, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, College of Business.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:illbus:06-0124

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