There's a scene in Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass in which the Red Queen, having just led a chase with Alice in which neither seems to have moved from the spot where they began, explains to the perplexed girl: "It takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place." Evolutionary biologists have used this scene to illustrate the evolutionary arms race among competing species. William Barnett argues that a similar dynamic is at work when organizations compete, shaping how firms and industries evolve over time.
Barnett examines the effects--and unforeseen perils--of competing and winning. He takes a fascinating, in-depth look at two of the most competitive industries--computer manufacturing and commercial banking--and derives some startling conclusions. Organizations that survive competition become stronger competitors--but only in the market contexts in which they succeed. Barnett shows how managers may think their experience will help them thrive in new markets and conditions, when in fact the opposite is likely to be the case. He finds that an organization's competitiveness at any given moment hinges on the organization's historical experience. Through Red Queen competition, weaker competitors fail, or they learn and adapt. This in turn heightens the intensity of competition and further strengthens survivors in an ever-evolving dynamic. Written by a leading organizational theorist, The Red Queen among Organizations challenges the prevailing wisdom about competition, revealing it to be a force that can make--and break--even the most successful organization.
The Red Queen Among Organizations represents outstanding scholarship in the organisational theory field but is sufficiently rooted in the "real world" to be of benefit to business strategists and particularly to MBA and doctoral students in the field of corporate strategy. [I]t is a serious attempt to understand organisational behaviour, and it does it exceptionally well."--Cary L. Cooper, Times Higher Education
"The main strength of the book is in highlighting the importance of competition in market-based economies for building viable, adaptive organizations."--Jason Potts, Kate Morrison, The Business Economist
"Barnett presents an excellent theoretical account of the evolution of competitiveness, supported by empirical evidence. . . . This ecological theory provides an excellent complement and contrast to many existing theoretical frameworks in strategic management."--J.J. Bailey, Choice
"The most ambitious and important new book is The Red Queen among Organizations, by William P. Barnett. . . . [I]t is the best strategy book of the year because of its main insights: Competition concerns relative performance, not absolute performance; a company's competitiveness is context specific, and contexts can change, giving rise to the competency trap; learning comes from competing, not isolation from competition; and differentiation is desirable as a way to secure rents, but must be pursued in the context of competition, not in the vain hopes of avoiding it."--Phil Rosenzweig, Stratgey & Business
"Barnett's presentation of the Red Queen theory is a well-crafted, nuanced, and thoughtful contribution to the voluminous literature on organizational population change."--David Knoke, American Journal of Sociology
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