Born to be Wild? Innovation Trajectories as Complex Adaptive Systems

Tyler Wry, Assistant Professor of Management, The Wharton School, and Daniel Albert, Research Scholar and Visiting Lecturer, The Wharton School

Abstract: This research will examine how technological innovation unfolds in contexts such as nanotechnology, large-scale collaborations, and open source software where open boundaries, diverse participants, and varied interests steer innovation trajectories away from lock-in. The approach is to embrace complexity and theorize the innovation trajectory as a complex adaptive system. This approach has the advantage of accounting for system-inherent characteristics that enable order to emerge from apparent chaos and serendipitously deviate from current trajectories. Specifically, the study will focus on the structural properties of the innovation trajectory, the knowledge schemas of individual inventors, and the relationship between the two.