IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/sru/ssewps/123.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The Value and Costs of Modularity: A Cognitive Perspective

Author

Listed:

Abstract

This paper discusses the issue of modularity from a problem-solving perspective. Modularity is in fact a decomposition heuristic, through which a complex problem is decomposed into independent or quasi-independent sub-problems. By means of a model of problem decomposition, this paper studies the trade-offs of modularity: on the one hand finer modules increase the speed of search, but on the other hand they usually determine lock-in into sub-optimal solutions. How effectively to balance this trade-off depends upon the problem environment and its complexity and volatility: we show that in stationary and complex environments there exists an evolutionary advantage to over-modularization, while in highly volatile – though “simple” – en- vironments, contrary to usual wisdom, modular search is inefficient. The empirical relevance of our findings is discussed, especially with reference to the literature on system integration.

Suggested Citation

  • Stefano Brusoni & Luigi Marengo & Andrea Prencipe & Marco Valente, 2004. "The Value and Costs of Modularity: A Cognitive Perspective," SPRU Working Paper Series 123, SPRU - Science and Technology Policy Research, University of Sussex.
  • Handle: RePEc:sru:ssewps:123
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/spru/documents/sewp123.pdf
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Marengo, Luigi, et al, 2000. "The Structure of Problem-Solving Knowledge and the Structure of Organizations," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(4), pages 757-788, December.
    2. Marengo, Luigi & Dosi, Giovanni, 2005. "Division of labor, organizational coordination and market mechanisms in collective problem-solving," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 58(2), pages 303-326, October.
    3. Carliss Y. Baldwin & Kim B. Clark, 2000. "Design Rules, Volume 1: The Power of Modularity," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262024667, January.
    4. Langlois, Richard N. & Robertson, Paul L., 1992. "Networks and innovation in a modular system: Lessons from the microcomputer and stereo component industries," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 21(4), pages 297-313, August.
    5. Herbert A. Simon, 1996. "The Sciences of the Artificial, 3rd Edition," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262691914, January.
    6. Giovanni Dosi & Daniel Levinthal & Luigi Marengo, 2002. "The Uneasy Organizational Matching Between Distribution of Knowledge, Divisionof Labor and Incentive Governance," LEM Papers Series 2002/26, Laboratory of Economics and Management (LEM), Sant'Anna School of Advanced Studies, Pisa, Italy.
    7. Brusoni, Stefano & Prencipe, Andrea, 2001. "Unpacking the Black Box of Modularity: Technologies, Products and Organizations," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 10(1), pages 179-205, March.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Citations

    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
    as


    Cited by:

    1. Andreas Reinstaller, 2012. "Modularity and its Implications for the Theory of the Firm," Chapters,in: Handbook on the Economics and Theory of the Firm, chapter 32 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    2. Koen Frenken & Stefan Mendritzki, 2012. "Optimal modularity: a demonstration of the evolutionary advantage of modular architectures," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 22(5), pages 935-956, November.
    3. Ceci, Federica & Prencipe, Andrea, 2013. "Does Distance Hinder Coordination? Identifying and Bridging Boundaries of Offshored Work," Journal of International Management, Elsevier, vol. 19(4), pages 324-332.
    4. Guido Fioretti, 2005. "Credit Rationing and Internal Ratings in the face of Innovation and Uncertainty," Finance 0504021, EconWPA.
    5. Andreas Reinstaller, 2011. "The Modularity of Technology and Organisations. Implications for the Theory of the Firm," WIFO Working Papers 398, WIFO.
    6. Gil, Nuno, 2007. "On the value of project safeguards: Embedding real options in complex products and systems," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(7), pages 980-999, September.
    7. Leonardo Bargigli, 2005. "The limits of modularity in innovation and production," KITeS Working Papers 176, KITeS, Centre for Knowledge, Internationalization and Technology Studies, Universita' Bocconi, Milano, Italy, revised Sep 2005.
    8. Marco Valente, 2014. "An NK-like model for complexity," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 24(1), pages 107-134, January.
    9. Tommaso Ciarli & Riccardo Leoncini & Sandro Montresor & Marco Valente, 2008. "Technological change and the vertical organization of industries," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 18(3), pages 367-387, August.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    modularity; problem solving; complex systems;

    JEL classification:

    • O3 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:sru:ssewps:123. 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: (Russell Eke) or (Rebekah McClure). General contact details of provider: http://edirc.repec.org/data/spessuk.html .

    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 CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc 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 RePEc Author Service 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.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.