Keeping Steady As She Goes: A Negotiated Order Perspective on Technological Evolution

Gina Dokko, Assistant Professor of Management at UC Davis Graduate School of Management; Ph.D., Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania, Amit Nigam, Senior Lecturer in Management, Cass Business School, City University London, and Lori Rosenkopf, Simon and Midge Palley Professor of Management, Vice Dean and Director, Wharton Undergraduate Division

Organization Studies, Vol. 33, pp. 681-703

Abstract: A central idea in the theory of technology cycles is that social and political mechanisms are most important during the selection of a dominant design, and that eras of incremental change are socially uninteresting periods in which innovation is driven by technological momentum and elaboration of the dominant design. In this essay, we overturn the ontological assumption that social order is inherently stable, drawing on Anselm Strauss’s concept of negotiated order to analyze the persistence of a dominant design as a social accomplishment: an outcome of ongoing processes that reinforce or challenge a socially negotiated order. Thus, we shift focus from battles over standards to periods of normal innovation. We extend the technology cycles model to explain social dynamics in periods of incremental change, and to make predictions specifying how contextual conditions in standards-setting organizations affect social interaction, leading to reinforcement or challenge to a socio-technical order.

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