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Cognition and Capabilities: Opportunities Seized and Missed in the History of the Computer Industry

From: Dick Langlois Obfuscate("","UConnVM.UConn.Edu")  > 
Date: Thu, 30 Jun 94 16:01:21 EDT

Despite the enormous literature devoted to the subject, there remains little consensus about the organizational sources of innovativeness and inertia. On the one hand, the evolutionary or "capabilities" view of the firm leads us naturally to expect organizational inertia as a natural by- product of competitive success, especially in complex, highly articulated firms. On the other hand, there is a tradition within what is broadly the same view of the firm that stresses the advantages for innovation of large, professionally managed firms over the "personal capitalism" of smaller, more synoptically managed enterprises. This paper attempts to develop a perspective on the debate by treating the organization as a cognitive structure within an evolutionary capabilities framework. It then canvasses the history of the computer industry for empirical examples. That history includes a diversity of organizational types confronting -- both successfully and unsuccessfully -- a significant number of cases of technological opportunity. The central conclusion of the paper is that innovativeness and inertia are not so much results of organizational form considered a priori but rather of the "fit" between the cognitive structure of the organization and the structure of the economic change the opportunity implies.

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I was told that I could keep operating EconWPA (as well as many other services including,, and three RePEc servers) but I would receive no support (hardware, software, or anthing else) and (as had been the case) no compensation. At that point, given the apparent low valuation of my activities by the department, and university, it made no sense for me to continue operating EconWPA or other services.

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