"Perspectives on the Productivity Dilemma"

The Journal of Operations Management recently published this invited article that I co-authored with Paul Adler, Mary Benner, John Paul MacDuffie, Emi Osono, Brad Staats, Hiro Takeuchi, Mike Tushman, and Sid Winter.  The article revisits the so-called “productivity dilemma” identified by Abernathy in 1978:  attempts to increase efficiency in the short term tend to inhibit innovation in the long term.  Mike and Mary attribute the problem to the “dynamic conservatism” of tightly coupled systems, while Paul Adler emphasizes the tendency of profit-seeking to undermine the trust required for cooperative innovation.  Brad and I argue that overcoming the problem requires selectively re-introducing variance into mature processes, a phenonenon that we term “deliberate perturbation”.  We are working on a theory paper with Mike that further develops the concept of deliberate perturbation.  [The paper, entitled “Wellsprings of Creation: How Perturbation Sustains Exploration in Mature Organizations”, is now available here — DJB, 24 Aug 2009]

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