Coherence as an Alternative to Strategic Complementarity at an Entrepreneurial Firm

38 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2011 Last revised: 18 Jun 2011

See all articles by Adam J Bock

Adam J Bock

University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business

Date Written: December 31, 2010


Organisational change processes are complex, idiosyncratic, and seemingly nonstochastic. Theories of strategic complementarity present change as the evolution of systems of mutual reinforcement among heterogeneous elements within the firm. This paper combines theories of strategic complementarity and entrepreneurial sense-making to develop an alternate heuristic of entrepreneurial adaptation as a search for coherence. Within a framework of narrative rationality, I define coherence as inference or search for the best explanation. A case study of organisational change at an entrepreneurial biotechnology firm provides the backdrop for the modeling exercise. A constraint satisfaction model reveals coherent systems of heterogeneous organizational elements. The model recapitulates organizational structuring observed at the firm. The success of the organization despite violating the primary heuristic of complementarity suggests that strategic theories of fitness must be applied with caution in entrepreneurial contexts. This paper contributes to the study of fitness generally and the specific application of fitness regimes in entrepreneurial contexts, specially when high uncertainty and resource scarcity limits strategic analysis and implementation.

Keywords: strategic complementarity, coherence, narrative, entrepreneurship, simulation

Suggested Citation

Bock, Adam Jay, Coherence as an Alternative to Strategic Complementarity at an Entrepreneurial Firm (December 31, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Adam Jay Bock (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business ( email )

Madison, WI
United States

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