Managing the Old and New: Essays on Responses to Novel Technologies
A central challenge for firms is to respond and adapt to technological change. Through three related chapters, this dissertation seeks to advance knowledge with a synthesis view of adaptation by unpacking the mechanisms underlying reshaping of technological frames (Chapter 2), strategizing processes (Chapter 3), as well as a typology of interactive dynamics between actors (Chapter 4). Collectively, these chapters suggest the value of how a synthesis lens and opens opportunities for future research.
Paper 1 examines how an emancipatory disruptive technology can be turned to serve the interest of those it was meant to displace. Drawing on a qualitative study of the emergence of blockchain technology, we theorize a process model of disruptive capture through which a technology’s meaning can be transformed from an ideological challenge to corporate domination into a technological tool for capturing value. This study spotlights the agency of incumbent actors in not only making sense of new technologies but also actively reshaping their meaning. We emphasize the synthesis nature of this process; whereby the technology evolves into an emergent combination of established and novel aspects. We posit the value of disruptive capture for firms to take advantage of contentious technologies, rather than rejection or resistance.
Paper 2 investigates the tensions managers face with novel technologies that blur traditional notions of industry boundaries. Our qualitative study of an oil and gas corporation responding to emerging digital technologies found that managers faced conflicting environmental velocities, specifically the pace, rhythm, and unpredictability of technological change. This led to clashes in temporal norms and assumptions in the processes of technology strategizing. We show how tensions induced managers to become reflexively aware of the intra-firm plurality of temporal assumptions, and through temporal maneuvering, leverage plurality to their advantage. By focusing on processes (i.e., strategizing for technologies) rather than content (i.e., novel technologies), we extend sociocognitive perspectives of technological adaptation by highlighting temporal complexities in how managers do strategizing. Paper 3 theorizes adaptation to nonincremental innovation as a process of confronting and managing contradictions. Specifically, we argue that nonincremental innovations emerge as contradictions to dominant incumbents along dimensions of resource, strategic cognition, and organizational identity. Drawing on insights from dialectics and paradox perspectives, we develop a typology of how firms respond to nonincremental innovation through conflict, mutual adjustment, assimilation, or synergy. Our theoretical model advances a synthesis view of nonincremental innovations, which departs from dichotomies of incumbent and entrant actors and technologies to emphasize the novel combinations that emerge through their interaction.