Information Technology and Management

, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 185–202 | Cite as

Technology roles and paths of influence in an ecosystem model of technology evolution

  • Gediminas AdomaviciusEmail author
  • Jesse C. Bockstedt
  • Alok Gupta
  • Robert J. Kauffman


We propose a new conceptual model for understanding technology evolution that highlights dynamic and highly interdependent relationships among multiple technologies. We argue that, instead of considering technologies in isolation, technology evolution is best viewed as a dynamic system or ecosystem that includes a variety of interrelated technologies. By considering the interdependent nature of technology evolution, we identify three roles that technologies play within a technology ecosystem. These roles are components, products and applications, and support and infrastructure. Technologies within an ecosystem interact through these roles and impact each others’ evolution. We also classify types of interactions between technology roles, which we term paths of influence. We demonstrate the use of our proposed model through examples of wireless networking (Wi-Fi) technologies and a business mini-case on the digital music industry.


Ecological perspective Environmental analysis Innovations Paths of influence Technology analysis Technology ecosystem Technology evolution Technology roles 



The authors would like to thank Andrew Odlyzko and Michael Olesen with the Digital Technology Center, as well as Dennis Ahlburg (dean at the University of Colorado, but previously with the Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota) for providing joint financial support of this research. We also thank the MIS Research Center, which provided funding and access to firms involved in forecasting RFID technology innovations, through its ongoing RFID Research Project. We further acknowledge the co-chairs of the 2004 INFORMS Conference on Information Systems and Technology, Hemant Bhargava, Chris Forman and D. J. Wu, for the opportunity to present an early version of this article, and Ritu Agarwal, Frank Bass, Portia Isaacson Bass and the CIST 2004 participants for their helpful comments. Finally, we wish to recognize the helpful advice of the anonymous reviewers and AE.


  1. 1.
    C.Y. Baldwin and K.B. Clark, Managing in the age of modularity, Harvard Business Review 75(5) (1997) 84–93.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    C.Y. Baldwin and K.B. Clark, Design, Rules: The Power of Modularity (The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2000).Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    F. Bass, New product growth for model consumer durables, Management Science 15(5) (1969) 215–227Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    P.I. Bass and F. Bass, Diffusion of technology generations: A model of adoption and repeat sales, working paper, Bass Economics, Frisco, TX (2001).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    P.I. Bass and F. Bass, IT waves: Two completed generational diffusion models, working paper, Bass Economics, Frisco, TX (2004).Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    J. Borland and I. Fried, iTunes ushers in a year of change, CNET News (April 2, 2004). Available online at–1027_3–5199227.html.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    D.T. Campbell, Levels of organization, downward causation, and the selection-theory approach to evolutionary epistemology, in: Theories of the Evolution of Knowing, G. Greenberg and E. Tobach (eds.) (Lawrence Erlbaum: Hillsdale, NJ, 1990) pp. 1–17.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    D.T. Campbell, How individual and face-to-face group selection undermine firm selection in organizational evolution. in: Evolutionary Dynamics in Organizations, J.A.C. Baum and J.V. Singh (eds.) (Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 1994) pp. 23–38.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    K.B. Clark, The interaction of design hierarchies and market concepts in technological evolution. Research Policy 14(5) (1985) 235–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    E. Constant, Recursive practice and the evolution of technical knowledge, Chapter 5, in: Technological Innovation as an Evolutionary Process, J. Ziman (ed.), (Cambridge University Press, London, UK, 2000).Google Scholar
  11. 11., Motorola unveils iTunes phone, CNN Money (February 14, 2005). Available at Scholar
  12. 12.
    J. Curtin, R.J. Kauffman and F.J. Riggins, Making the ‘MOST’ out of RFID Technology: A research agenda for the study of adoption, usage and impact of RFID, Information Technology and Management, this issue, in press.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    I. Dierickx and K. Cool, Asset stock accumulation and sustainability of competitive advantage, Management Science 35(12) (1989)1504–1511.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    G. Dosi, Technological paradigms and technological trajectories, Research Policy 11 (1982) 147–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    R.W. Frick, Operations research and technological forecasting, Air University Review 25(4) (1974) 2–13.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    R.M. Henderson and K.B. Clark, Architectural innovation: the reconfiguration of existing product technologies and the failure to establish firms, Administrative Science Quarterly 35(1) (1990) 9–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    M. Iansiti and T. Khanna, Technological evolution, system architecture and the obsolescence of firm capabilities, Industrial and Corporate Change 4 (1995) 333–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    M. Iansiti and R. Levien, The Keystone Advantage: What the New Dynamics of Business Ecosystems Mean for Strategy, Innovation, and Sustainability (Harvard Business School Press, Boston, MA 2004).Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    M. Iansiti and R. Levien, Strategy as ecology, Harvard Business Review (March 2004) 68–78Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    M. Jenkins and F. Steven, Trajectories in the evolution of technology: A multi-level study of competition in Formula 1 racing, Organization Studies 22(6) (2001) 945–969.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. 21.
    D.E. Kash and R.W. Rycoft, Patterns of innovating complex technologies: A framework for adaptive network strategies, Research Policy 29 (2000) 819–831.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 22.
    N. Kim, D.R. Chang and A.D. Shocker, Modeling inter-category and generational dynamics for a growing information technology industry, Management Science 46(4) (2000) 496–512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    P.R. La Monica, iPod mania! Apple isn’t the only stock that’s zoomed because of the iPod. But are iPod suppliers good buys? CNN Money (February 15, 2004). Available at Scholar
  24. 24.
    C. Loch and B. Huberman, A punctuated equilibrium model of technology diffusion, Management Science 45(2) (1999) 160–177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. 25.
    J. Maynard Smith, Models in Ecology (Cambridge University Press, London, UK, 1974)Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    J.S. Metcalfe and M. Gibbons, Technology, variety and organization: a systematic perspective on the competitive process, Research on Technological Innovation, Management and Policy 4 (1989) 153–193Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    J. Mokyr Evolutionary phenomena in technological change, Chapter 5 in: Technological Innovation as an Evolutionary Process, J. Ziman, (ed.) (Cambridge University Press, London, UK, 2000).Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    F. Murray, Innovation as co-evolution of scientific and technological networks: Exploring tissue engineering Research Policy 31 (2002) 1389–1403.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. 29.
    R.R. Nelson, Recent evolutionary theorizing about economic change, Journal of Economic Literature 33(1) (1995) 48–90.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    R.R. Nelson and S.G. Winter, An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA 1982).Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    K. Pavitt, Patterns of technological change: Towards a taxonomy and a theory, Research Policy 13 (1984) 343–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. 32.
    J.M. Podolny and T.E. Stuart, A role-based ecology of technological change, American Journal of Sociology 100(5) (1995) 1224–1260.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. 33.
    A.L. Porter, A.T. Roper, T.W. Mason, F.A. Rossini and J. Banks, Forecasting and Management of Technology (Wiley-Interscience, New York, NY 1991).Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    L. Rosenkopf and A. Nerkar, On the complexity of technological evolution Exploring co-evolution within and across hierarchical levels in optical disc technology. in: Variations in Organization Science: In Honor of Donald T Campbell (Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA 1999) pp. 169–183.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    L. Rosenkopf and M.L. Tushman, The co-evolution of technology and organization, in: Evolutionary Dynamics of Organizations, J.A.C. Baum and J. Singh (eds.) (Oxford University Press, New York, NY 1994).Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    L. Rosenkopf and M.L. Tushman, The co-evolution of community networks and technology: Lessons from the flight simulation industry, Industrial and Corporate Change 7 (1998) 311–346.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    D. Sahal, Technological guideposts and innovation avenues, Research Policy 14 (1985) 61–82.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. 38.
    P.P. Saviotti, Technology Evolution, Variety and the Economy (Edward Elgar Publishing, Cheltenham, UK 1996).Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    P.P. Saviotti and J.S. Metcalfe, A theoretical approach to construction of technological output indicators. Research Policy 13 (1984) 141–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 40.
    P.P. Saviotti and J.S. Metcalfe, Evolutionary Theories of Economics and Technological Change: Present State and Future Prospects (Harwood Publishers, Reading MA 1991).Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    A.D. Shocker, B.L. Bayus and N. Kim, Product complements and substitutes in the real world: The relevance of ‘other products’, Journal of Marketing 68(1) (2004) 28–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. 42.
    A. Sood and G.J. Tellis, Technological evolution and radical innovation, Journal of Marketing 69(3) (2005) 152–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. 43.
    The Economist, A brief history of Wi-Fi (June 10, 2004) Available at Scholar
  44. 44.
    M.L. Tushman and J. Murmann, Dominant designs, technology cycles, and organizational outcomes, Research in Organizational Behavior 20 (1998) 231–266.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    M.L. Tushman and L. Rosenkopf, On the organizational determinants of technological change Toward a sociology of technological evolution, in: Research in Organizational Behavior, B. Staw and L. Cummings (eds.) (JAI Press, Greenwich, CT 1992) pp. 311–347.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    J. Ziman, Evolutionary models for technical change, in: Technological Innovation as an Evolutionary Process, J. Ziman (ed.) (Cambridge University Press, London, UK 2000.)Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gediminas Adomavicius
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jesse C. Bockstedt
    • 1
  • Alok Gupta
    • 1
  • Robert J. Kauffman
    • 1
  1. 1.Information and Decision Sciences, Carlson School of ManagementUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA

Personalised recommendations