Seeking the Configurations of Digital Ecodynamics: It Takes Three to Tango
Vol. 21, No. 4, December 2010, pp. 835–848 ISSN1047-7047, EISSN1526-5536 10 2104 0835
14 Pages Posted: 20 Dec 2013
Date Written: July 1, 2010
This paper starts from the premise that the simultaneous increase in environmental turbulence, the requisite speed of organizational change, and the intensified ubiquity of digital technologies are spawning a phenomenon that is messy, complex, and chaotic. Accordingly, we need to change the way we examine how information technology (IT) can help organizations build a strategic advantage in turbulent environments. We propose a more systemic and holistic perspective to theory building and testing in the information system (IS) strategy area and correspondingly appropriate methods that capture the complexity of this phenomenon. We term this phenomenon digital ecodynamics, defined as the holistic confluence among environmental turbulence, dynamic capabilities, and IT systems — and their fused dynamic interactions unfolding as an ecosystem. We believe that a more holistic understanding of digital ecodynamics will fuel the next leap in knowledge in the IS strategy area.
First, extending the strategic management literature that has mainly focused on two-way interactions between environmental turbulence and dynamic capabilities, we foreground IT systems as a third central element. We use a “threesome tango” analogy1 with strong mutual interdependence to accentuate our view of digital ecodynamics — while also stressing the emerging role of IT systems in triggering environmental turbulence and shaping dynamic capabilities to build a strategic advantage. Second, we propose a different paradigmatic lens (configuration theories) as an appropriate inquiring system to better understand the complexity of digital ecodynamics. The paper articulates the key aspects of configuration theories as inquiring systems, compares them with the more common variance theories and process theories, and illustrates the power of recent advances in configurational methods. Third, we create a preliminary roadmap for IS researchers to better examine digital ecodynamics using novel structural properties afforded by configuration theories (i.e., mutual causality, discontinuity, punctuated equilibria, nonlinear change). Fourth, we reflect on the broader opportunities that the configurational perspective of digital ecodynamics can create for IS strategy research. The paper ends by highlighting the double-barreled opportunity that digital ecodynamics renders, both as an energizing vision for IS strategy research and also as a reshaper of strategic management research and practice in a turbulent and digitized world.
Keywords: Digital ecodynamics, information systems strategy, digital disruption, configuration theory, holistic perspective, environmental turbulence, dynamic capabilities, IT systems, ecosystem dynamics
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