Reversing course: Competing technologies, mistakes, and renewal in flat panel displays

J.P. Eggers, New York University Stern School of Business

Strategic Management Journal, 2015

Abstract: The study explores renewal in a novel but understudied context—an era of ferment with competing technological options. It focuses on IBM’s transition from market leadership in a failed path (plasma) to leadership in the emerging dominant technology (LCD) in the 1980s. Interviews and internal documents offer two primary factors explaining renewal at IBM. First, IBM Research had a hybrid structure that captured the benefits of both centralized and decentralized R&D. Second, middle managers shaped senior management cognitive frames to focus on business-related issues instead of specific technical issues, thus bypassing biases often resulting from failure. The study offers an integrated framework on what facilitates flexibility at the technology, organization, and decision-making levels. This flexibility helps firms survive a turbulent era of ferment.

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