The Coevolution of Industries and Important Features of Their Environments

45 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2011

See all articles by Johann Peter Murmann

Johann Peter Murmann

University of St. Gallen; UNSW Australia Business School - AGSM

Date Written: April 16, 2011


As the rate of innovation increases, organizational environments are becoming faster and more complex, posing greater challenges for organizations to adapt. This study argues that the concept of coevolution offers a bridge between the prescient adaptationist and ex-post selectionist perspectives of organizational change to account for the increasing rates of change. The mutual causal influences in a coevolutionary relationship help explain why competing sets of firms or individual firms can capture dominant shares in product markets. Using a comparative historical method and drawing on evidence from five countries over a 60-year period, this paper inquires how precisely coevolutionary processes work in shaping the evolution of industries and important features of their environments. It identifies - in the context of the synthetic dye industry - three causal mechanisms (exchange of personnel, commercial ties, and lobbying) and suggests how they acted as levers on the fundamental mechanisms of evolution. Understanding the levers is important for managing change in a world that is increasingly becoming coevolutionary, requiring managers to focus more on the emergent, system level properties of their environments.

Keywords: Coevolution, Evolutionary Theory, Synthetic Dye Industry, Science-Industry Relations

JEL Classification: L23, L65, M10, N80, O30

Suggested Citation

Murmann, Johann Peter, The Coevolution of Industries and Important Features of Their Environments (April 16, 2011). UNSW Australian School of Business Research Paper No. 2011 STRE 02, Available at SSRN: or

Johann Peter Murmann (Contact Author)

University of St. Gallen ( email )

Dufourstrasse 40a
Institute of Management and Strategy
St.Gallen, 9000
+41 71 224 23 64 (Phone)


UNSW Australia Business School - AGSM ( email )

UNSW Sydney, NSW 2052
+61-2-9385-9733 (Phone)


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