Sarta A, Durand R, Vergne JP. 2021. Organizational Adaptation. Journal of Management (January issue Forthcoming)
33 Pages Posted: 28 May 2020 Last revised: 30 Sep 2020
Date Written: April 30, 2020
Organizational adaptation is equivocal. On the one hand, the concept is ubiquitous in management research and acts as the glue binding together the central issues of organizational change, performance, and survival. On the other hand, it lurks around in various guises (e.g., “fit,” “alignment,” “congruence,” and “strategic change”) studied from multiple theoretical streams (e.g., behavioral, resource-based, and institutional), and at different levels of analysis (e.g., organization- and industry-level). In a novel approach to reviewing 443 adaptation articles that leverages both computational and hand-coded analysis, we produce an interactive visual of the themes most studied by adaptation scholars. We inductively draw out a definition of adaptation as intentional decision-making undertaken by organizational members, leading to observable actions that aim to reduce the distance between an organization and its economic and institutional environments. We then review the literature across three main areas of inquiry and six theoretical perspectives that surfaced from our analysis and identify eleven difficulties that have hampered adaptation research in the past 50 years. Our review suggests ways to address these difficulties to enable future research to develop and cumulate.
Keywords: adaptation, fit, congruence, topic modeling, evolution, strategic change, performance
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