The Digital Business Ecosystem

The Digital Business Ecosystem

Edited by Angelo Corallo, Giuseppina Passiante and Andrea Prencipe

By bringing together elements of a radical new approach to the firm based on a biological metaphor of the ecosystem, this unique book extends the limits of existing theories traditionally used to investigate business networks.

Chapter 3: The Quest for New Organizational Forms: The Strange Case of Open Source Software Communities

Robert M. Grant

Subjects: business and management, organisational innovation, organisation studies, strategic management, innovation and technology, organisational innovation


Robert M. Grant INTRODUCTION Over a decade ago, Richard Daft and Arie Lewin (1993) asked: ‘Where are the theories for the new organizational forms?’ Their identification of the need for new theory was based upon their perceptions that: ‘. . . the new organizational revolution is sweeping one industry after another’, and that ‘quantum changes in manufacturing and computer mediated communication technologies have given managers radical new options for designing organizations’. Before embarking on a quest for new theory, a prior step is to identify these new organizational forms and describe their major features. Certainly, management scholars have shown little reluctance in proclaiming discoveries of new types of business organization. Yet most of the novel organizational forms described in the literature – modular structures, ambidextrous firms, hypertext organizations, N-forms and ‘inside-out doughnuts’ – exist in the cognition of the observer. Empirical verification of their frequency or prominence is largely lacking. Indeed, one of the most noticeable features of today’s business landscape is the persistence of conventional organizational forms – most notably the multidivisional corporation. This raises the issue of whether the longevity of the conventional corporate form is the result of its superiority in coordinating the complex processes of developing, producing and marketing goods or services, or whether it is simply a product of inertia and the absence of viable alternatives. While the organizational revolution proclaimed by Daft and Lewin may exist more in the minds of management scholars than among the ranks of business enterprises, there is one organizational form that has...

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