The Funeral Industry and the Internet: On the Historical Emergence and Destabilization of Strategic Paths

18 Pages Posted: 24 Apr 2018

See all articles by Matthias Wenzel

Matthias Wenzel

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Heinz-Theo Wagner

German Graduate School of Management and Law

Jochen Koch

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: April 2017

Abstract

Although IS research acknowledges the importance of path dependence with the generalized response that “history matters,” this broad understanding does not substitute for a more systematic historical analysis of how paths emerge and how technological change breaks them. In this context, we draw on the theory of strategic path dependence from organization and management research to develop a more nuanced understanding of path dependence and then explore how technological change breaks these strategic paths. Based on a narrative analysis of the strategic development of incumbents in the funeral industry, we reconstruct the core components of strategic paths – strategic patterns and self-reinforcing mechanisms – and scrutinize the Internet’s role in breaking these paths. We suggest that technological change helps break strategic paths by destabilizing the very self-reinforcing mechanisms that led to their emergence and reproduction in the first place. Furthermore, by showing that breaking strategic paths involves a subsequent critical event that destabilizes the strategic pattern, we advance a process understanding of how strategic paths are broken. This paper thus provides much-needed historical analyses of IS-related phenomena, offers a more precise and systematic understanding of path dependence in IS research, and yields insights into the process of how strategic paths are broken.

Keywords: path dependence, history, technological change, self-reinforcing mechanisms, strategic pattern, narrative

Suggested Citation

Wenzel, Matthias and Wagner, Heinz-Theo and Koch, Jochen, The Funeral Industry and the Internet: On the Historical Emergence and Destabilization of Strategic Paths (April 2017). European Journal of Information Systems, Vol. 26, Issue 4, 2017. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3162093 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1057/s41303-017-0048-z

Matthias Wenzel (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

Heinz-Theo Wagner

German Graduate School of Management and Law

Bildungscampus 2
Heilbronn, 74076
Germany

Jochen Koch

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

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