Designing Infrastructure for Evolvability: Constraints on Collective Investments in Design Flexibility

36 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2013 Last revised: 11 Apr 2014

See all articles by Nuno A. Gil

Nuno A. Gil

The University of Manchester

Guilherme Biesek

The University of Manchester

Date Written: April 10, 2014

Abstract

This study investigates a dilemma that inter-organizational collectives formed to develop new infrastructure face at the project front-end: either invest in flexible designs that cope with change in requirements, this is design to evolve — at risk the extra costs upfront will not pay off if the uncertainties fail to resolve favourably in the future. Or endorse cheaper but more rigid designs — at risk of higher adaptation costs if the uncertainties materialise later on. Through an inductive study, we reveal how the collectives invariably engage in ad hoc future-proofing discussions to address this dilemma. But faced with tight budgets, conflicting interests, and mutual ignorance, they struggle to design in flexibility. Through lab experiments, we unexpectedly find that a formal framework to facilitate multilateral future-proofing discussions and thus improve process efficiency fails to significantly impact on the development process and outcomes. Hence, we argue, infrastructure design for evolvability is a collective action problem constrained by its inter-organizational structure. We conclude by discussing how structural changes may enable infrastructure design organizations to exploit in full the complementarity between design flexibility and project risk management

Keywords: Design for Evolvability, Infrastructure, Flexibility, Options, Commons

Suggested Citation

Gil, Nuno A. and Biesek, Guilherme, Designing Infrastructure for Evolvability: Constraints on Collective Investments in Design Flexibility (April 10, 2014). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2345704 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2345704

Nuno A. Gil (Contact Author)

The University of Manchester ( email )

Oxford Road
Manchester, N/A M13 9PL
United Kingdom

Guilherme Biesek

The University of Manchester ( email )

Oxford Road
Manchester, N/A M13 9PL
United Kingdom

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