Evolutionary Processes and Organizational Adaptation: A Mendelian Perspective on Strategic Management

ISBN : 9780199684946

Daniel A. Levinthal
152 ページ
138 x 216 mm

How do firms adapt? There are two basic starting points from which to answer that question. One is premised on ideas of rational choice and intentionality, while the other is a process of evolutionary dynamics. Both are well-defined and operate as powerful intellectual attractors. Using the ideas of Gregor Mendel as a useful touchstone, this book aims to construct a middle-ground between these two conceptions. The image of the "Mendelian" executive shows how we might effectively balance the ideas of godlike rational design on the one hand and evolutionary dynamics on the other. The perspective developed in this book is anchored on the two key primitives of path-dependence and artificial selection. The intentionality of the Mendelian executive allows for the conscious exploration of opportunities, rather than the happenstance of random variants, yet the constraining forces of path-dependence may lead these moves to adjacent spaces. This perspective also highlights the role of intentionality with respect to the selection and culling of strategic initiatives. The organization operates an "artificial selection" environment, as firms receive profits and losses and, in turn, mediate how these environmental outcomes are projected onto underlying elements and actors within the organization. In this spirit, exploration can be considered not merely as the distance in the underlying behavior from current action, but also as changes in the dimensions of merit by which initiatives are judged. The Mendelian executive is a catalyst and cultivator of promising pathways to unknown futures.


1 Mendel in the C-Suite: Design and the Evolution of Strategies
2 Choice, Selection, and Learning
3 Path-Dependence
4 Selection
5 Exploration and Exploitation
6 Punctuated Change
7 Modern Mendels and Organizational Adaptation


Daniel A. Levinthal is the Reginald H. Jones Professor of Corporate Strategy at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. A leading management scholar, he has published extensively on questions of organizational adaptation and industry evolution, particularly in the context of technological change. He is a Fellow of the Strategic Management Society, the Academy of Management, and the Academy of International Business. He currently serves as Editor-in-Chief of Strategy Science and has previously served as Editor-in-chief of Organization Science. He has received honorary doctorates from the London Business School, University of Southern Denmark, Tilburg University, and the University of Warwick.