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The Dynamics of Corporate Co-evolution

A Case Study of Port Development in China

  • Organisation and Strategy: Case Studies in their Context

John Child, Kenneth K.-T. Tse and Suzana B. Rodrigues

Offering insights of unusual richness, this book examines one of the world’s most important business environments to determine the way that organizations can develop through interaction with their environments. It fills a gap in our understanding of the evolution of the Chinese business environment and throws light on the theory of co-evolution in order to inspire management practice.
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Chapter 3: Research design and methodology

John Child, Kenneth K.-T. Tse and Suzana B. Rodrigues


The investigation reported in this book is a longitudinal case study covering the co-evolution of a major international joint venture company in China’s port sector from its foundation in 1993 to the end of 2009. The objective of the study is to understand how the company and its environment evolved in relation to one another. It looks closely at how the company’s management developed its strategies in light of the specific environmental conditions affecting the joint venture, including its attempts to influence the evolution of its environment. In order to achieve this research objective, a qualitative methodology is appropriate. We seek to understand the relational framework that developed between YICT and external agencies, the intentions of the principal actors, and the key events and processes which took place within that relationship and as a consequence of it. These aims require a methodology of inquiry that can follow the unfolding of events over a period of time with sufficient sensitivity to the intentions, actions and relationships that drove the events forward. Our methodological approach was informed by previous studies that shared similar aims to our own: particularly those of Pettigrew (1985a), Johnson (1987), Burgelman (2002), Dieleman and Sachs (2008), and Rodrigues and Child (2008). One of these shared aims is to provide comprehensive and perceptive accounts of how a firm evolves as a process that is shaped by its history and leadership, and which unfolds within a relevant context. In light of the debate concerning environmental selection versus managerial intentionality,

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