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Based on a comparative case study of nine firms in the Canadian graphic arts industry in 1964–86, this paper suggests that managerial conduct plays a significant role in…
Based on a comparative case study of nine firms in the Canadian graphic arts industry in 1964–86, this paper suggests that managerial conduct plays a significant role in technological change. There were clear differences in managerial conduct between technological leaders and followers, and managerial conduct was influenced by firm performance, managerial capacities and attitudes and contextual conditions. These four elements, managerial conduct, firm performance, managerial capacities and attitudes, and contextual conditions, constituted feedback cycles of technological change. Firm performance induced managerial conduct that was influenced by managerial capacities and attitudes and by contextual conditions and led to technological change, depending on the intensity and extent of conduct, and technological change further affected firm performance. The paper focuses on managerial work processes as they cause differences in technological change in technological leaders and followers, but other elements of the feedback cycles are considered as well. Technological change has increased productivity growth and standard of living, but technological development also “destroys the economic viability of certain industries, firms, and jobs, as it creates new ones” (Nelson, 1981: 1054). This kind of impact has created a need to predict and control technological change, and thereby to understand the phenomenon better. Despite the fact that technological change takes place in firms (Moss, 1981: 51–53), most of the economics research explains technological development at the aggregate level (see Kamien & Schwartz, 1982 for a review), and the majority of the so called innovation studies concentrate on individual adoption behaviour (see Rogers, 1983 for a review). However, in order to understand the process of technological change, we must go inside the firms where the change takes place. A useful starting point seems to be a comparison between firms that are technological leaders and followers (Schumpeter, 1934; Porter, 1983). This would increase understanding of the factors facilitating and preventing technological change. Technology can be defined as the tangible production process of converting inputs to outputs (Shen, 1981), and it is often embodied in physical capital (Nelson, 1981). Changes in production processes via production equipment are the main concern here. The central question of this paper is: Why do some firms become technological leaders while others are followers? And more specifically: How does managerial conduct differ between technological leaders and followers? The answers were sought through a comparative case study of Canadian graphic arts firms. The results indicate that the crucial factor determining leadership and followership was managerial conduct, shaped by firm performance and by the context of the firm. The role of managerial conduct in technological leadership and followership is focused on in this report.