Special issue on innovative uses of evolutionary/ecological approaches in the study and understanding of organizations

International Journal of Organizational Analysis

ISSN: 1934-8835

Article publication date: 26 July 2011


(2011), "Special issue on innovative uses of evolutionary/ecological approaches in the study and understanding of organizations", International Journal of Organizational Analysis, Vol. 19 No. 3. https://doi.org/10.1108/ijoa.2011.34519caa.001



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Special issue on innovative uses of evolutionary/ecological approaches in the study and understanding of organizations

Article Type: Call for papers From: International Journal of Organizational Analysis, Volume 19, Issue 3

Guest Editors: Dr Colin Jones, University of Tasmania, Australia, and Dr Dermot Breslin, University of Sheffield, UK

This special issue is focused on the innovative uses of evolutionary/ecological approaches to the study and understanding of organizations. Reference to various processes of evolution and ecology have become commonplace in the study of organizations. Scholars have explored the possibility of expanding the evolutionary approach beyond the domain of biology to fields of study as diverse as language, psychology, economics, behavior, culture and organization science (Richerson and Boyd, 2005; Cavalli-Sforza, 2001; Tooby and Cosmides, 1992; Durham, 1991; Plotkin, 1994; Dawkins, 1983; Nelson and Winter, 1982; Aldrich, 1999). These organizational studies have focused attention on the evolution of key units of analysis over time including ideas, techniques (Fleck 2000; Mokyr, 2000; Murmann 2003; Pelikan 2003; Vanberg 1992), organizational routines (Aldrich, 1999; Hodgson and Knudsen, 2010; Nelson and Winter, 1982), organizational comps (McKelvey, 1982) and organizational memes (O'Mahoney, 2007; Shepherd and McKelvey, 2009). Related research on organizational routines has focused on the role of routines in organizational adaptation and change (Becker, 2005; Becker and Zirpoli, 2008; Cohen and Bacdayan, 1994; Pentland and Feldman, 2005).

However, despite these research advances, calls continue for scholars to get closer to the research problems they investigate. Baum and Shipilov (2006, p. 101) implore researchers to ``become increasingly sensitive to the need for more fine-grained theory and measurement that captures in a more nuanced and direct manner the underlying process of interest'', the aim being to develop more compelling and less problematic accounts of the evolutionary/ecological dynamics of organizations. In a similar vein, Aldrich (1999, p. 346) structured the last chapter of his seminal monograph as an invitation to researchers (via attention to the underlying process of variation, selection and retention) to consider how organizations are remaking the world through collective action. He argues, ``we need encompassing schemes for understanding what is happening to us, and for putting local actions in historical and global context''. We challenge contributors to rise to the challenge of ecologist Paul Sears (1980, p. 223) to see ``not merely what is there, but what is happening there''.

Conceptual and/or empirical contributions, related to (but not limited by) the following issues, are encouraged:

  • Applying evolutionary/ecological theory or Darwinism to the study of innovation and organizational change.

  • Conceptualizing the unit of evolution; the routine, the meme, the comp, the idea or artefact.

  • Multi-level evolutionary approaches focusing on multiple levels of analysis over time (be that cultural elements or population dynamics etc.) and at the level of the individual, group, organization, industry and wider society.

  • Empirical studies which capture the development of routines, memes or other ``elements of culture'' over time.

  • Organizational survival/demise that use evolutionary/ecological approaches.

  • Work focusing on population and/or community dynamics.

Manuscripts of approximately 5,000 words should follow the journal's manuscript guidelines available at: www.emeraldinsight.com/ijoa.htm and should be submitted using Scholar One's Manuscript Central online submission system. This is accessible at: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/ijoa

Manuscripts must be original work (theoretical, empirical or case study) and should not be under consideration by any other journal or publication outlet.


Deadline for submission of papers: 1 September 2011Notification of decision: 1 December 2011Final papers due: 1 March 2012Expected publication date: June 2012

Preliminary enquiries may be made to:

Dr Colin Jones, Australian Innovation Research Centre,University of Tasmania, AustraliaE-mail: colin.jones@utas.edu.auTel: +61 3 62267362


Dr Dermot Breslin, University of Sheffield, UKE-mail: d.breslin@shef.ac.ukTel: +44 114 22 23386


Aldrich, H.E. (1999), Organizations Evolving, Sage Publishing, London.

Baum, J.A.C. and Shipilov, A.V. (2006), ``Ecological approaches to organizations'', in Clegg, S.R., Hardy, C., Lawrence, T. and Nord, W.R. (Eds), Handbook of Organizational Study, 2nd ed., Sage Publications, London, pp. 55-110.

Becker, M. C. (2005), ``A framework for applying organizational routines in empirical research: linking antecedents, characteristics and performance outcomes of recurrent interaction patterns'', Industrial and Corporate Change, Vol. 14 No. 5, pp. 817-46.

Becker, M.C. and Zirpoli, F. (2008), ``Applying organizational routines in analyzing the behavior of organizations'', Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Vol. 66, pp. 128-48.

Cavalli-Sforza, L.L. (2001), Genes, Peoples and Languages, Penguin Books, London.

Cohen, M.D. and Bacdayan, P. (1994), ``Organizational routines are stored as procedural memory: evidence from a laboratory study'', Organization Science, Vol. 5 No. 4, pp. 554-68.

Dawkins, R. (1983), ``Universal Darwinism'', in Bendall, D.S. (Ed.), Evolution from Molecules to Man, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 403-25.

Durham, W.H. (1991), Coevolution: Genes, Culture and Human Diversity, Stanford University Press, Stanford, CA.

Fleck, J. (2000), ``Artefact – Activity: the coevolution of artefacts, knowledge and organization in technological innovation'',

in Ziman, J. (Ed.), Technological Innovation as an Evolutionary Process, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 248-66.

Hodgson, G.M. and Knudsen, T. (2010), Darwin's Conjecture:

The Search for General Principles of Social and Economic Evolution. University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.

McKelvey, B. (1982), Organizational Systematics: Taxonomy, Evolution, Classification, University of California Press, Berkeley, CA.

Mokyr, J. (2000), ``Evolutionary phenomena in technological change'', in Ziman, J. (Ed), Technological Innovation as an Evolutionary Process, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, NY, pp. 52-65.

Murmann, J.P. (2003), Knowledge and Competitive Advantage:

The Co-evolution of Firms, Technology and National Institutions, Cambridge University Press, New York, NY.

Nelson, R. and Winter, S. (1982), Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change, Bellknap, Cambridge, MA.

O'Mahoney, J. (2007), ``The diffusion of management innovations:

the possibilities and limitations of memetics'', Journal of Management Studies, Vol. 44 No. 8, pp. 1324-48.

Pelikan, P. (2003), ``Bringing institutions into evolutionary economics: another view with links to changes in physical and social technologies'', Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Vol. 13,

pp. 237-58.

Pentland, B.T. and Feldman, M.S. (2005), ``Organizational routines as a unit of analysis'', Industrial and Corporate Change, Vol. 14 No. 5,

pp. 793-815.

Plotkin, H. (1994), Darwin Machines and the Nature of Knowledge, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA.

Richerson, P.J. and Boyd, R. (2005), Not by Genes Alone:

How Culture Transformed Human Evolution, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL.

Sears, P.B. (1980), Deserts on the March. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK.

Shepherd, J. and McKelvey, B. (2009), ``An empirical investigation of organizational memetic variation'', Journal of Bioeconomics, Vol. 11, pp. 135-64.

Tooby, J. and Cosmides, L. (1992), ``The psychological foundations of culture'', in Barkow, J.H., Cosmides, L. and Tooby, J. (Eds), The Adapted Mind: Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 19-136.

Vanberg, V. (1992), ``Innovation, cultural evolution, and economic growth'', in Witt, U. (Ed.), Explaining Process and Change: Approaches to Evolutionary Economics, The University of Michigan Press, Ann Arbor, MI, pp. 105-21.