Handbook of Research on Strategy Process
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Handbook of Research on Strategy Process

Edited by Pietro Mazzola and Franz W. Kellermanns

The Handbook of Research on Strategy Process reveals the current state of the art of strategy process research as a whole as well as emerging research initiatives. It also discusses managerial and organizational factors affecting strategy implementation.
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Chapter 16: A Complexity Perspective on Strategic Process Research

Terry B. Porter


Terry B. Porter Competitive advantage is proving to be less and less enduring in the high velocity environments facing most industries today. Specifically, conventional strategic models of top-down formulation followed by line-level implementation are cumbersome and unwieldy in the current conditions of most industries, where change is ubiquitous, rapid, and unpredictable. While an important body of knowledge has developed in this traditional lineage, we argue in this chapter that the meta-theoretical paradigm upon which it rests is increasingly awkward and untenable in the face of the radically dynamic marketplaces now commonplace. In contrast to traditional canons of Modernism and positivist inquiry, this chapter asserts that complexity theory and complex adaptive systems (CAS) provide an integrative framework that provides a robust platform for understanding the adaptive responses of firms in the face of the turbulence now common in most industries and environments of business. Still new to the management field, the introduction of complexity theory has garnered great interest, though it has yet to be assimilated into common models of research and practice, and particularly into strategic process knowledge and research (Anderson, 1999). ‘Complexity thinking’ has arisen as a descriptor for this new vision of organizational phenomena (Richardson, 2008), encompassing a singular framework of ontology, epistemology, and action: ‘complexity thinking is a particular attitude towards our ideas about the world and the world itself, not a particular tool/method, or even a particular language . . . [it is] a perspective that is rather more sensitive to the complexities that are inherent in daily experience’...

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