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The management of innovation and patterns in technological development


  • Howells, John

    () (Department of Organisation and Management, Aarhus School of Business)


This paper is a review of efforts to summarise long-term technological development in the management literature in terms of ‘paths’ or trajectories. They are most useful as a way of understanding the general search for economies of scale, but the management value of such ideas is compromised because it is difficult to judge the beginning and end of such patterns of change. The establishment of technological standards is seen as a special case of such patterns in development. The classic cases of the QWERTY keyboard, the VHS versus Betamax videocassette recorder standard and the international choice of colour TV broadcasting standard show that the most difficult management problems occur when there is no clear economic or use-value attached to one standard amongst many (this follows if Liebowitz and Margolis’ revision of the first two cases is accepted): when there is a choice between various ‘neutral’ standards. In such circumstances a blatant attempt to use a particular standard to benefit one technological player against others, when the others have equivalent technological ability, is likely to trigger mutually destructive game-playing, as occurred in the colour TV standards case.

Suggested Citation

  • Howells, John, 2003. "The management of innovation and patterns in technological development," Working Papers 2003-5, University of Aarhus, Aarhus School of Business, Department of Management.
  • Handle: RePEc:hhb:aardom:2003_005

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Liebowitz, S J & Margolis, Stephen E, 1990. "The Fable of the Keys," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 33(1), pages 1-25, April.
    2. David, Paul A, 1985. "Clio and the Economics of QWERTY," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 75(2), pages 332-337, May.
    3. Liebowitz, S J & Margolis, Stephen E, 1995. "Path Dependence, Lock-in, and History," Journal of Law, Economics, and Organization, Oxford University Press, vol. 11(1), pages 205-226, April.
    4. Nelson, Richard R. & Winter, Sidney G., 1993. "In search of useful theory of innovation," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 22(2), pages 108-108, April.
    5. S. J. Liebowitz & Stephen E. Margolis, 1994. "Network Externality: An Uncommon Tragedy," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 8(2), pages 133-150, Spring.
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    Innovation; Technological development; Technological standards;

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