Interconnecting Paths: A Study of Path Emergence and Change

  • Dermot Breslin


Path dependence shapes and constrains an organization’s ability to respond to changes in the marketplace, as history extends into the present and future. These living chains connect different time periods, and it is unclear how organizations can break free from the paths that bind them. Using a 7-year longitudinal study of a technology start-up, this paper examines how organizations change paths over time. It was seen that multiple paths emerged in the organization and that change involved a rerouting of the firm from its founding path to a newly created track. The paper makes a number of contributions to theory in this area. First, it points to the irreversibility of paths, with related action patterns persisting, despite decreasing returns from reinforcing mechanisms. Second, the study shows how change involves a rerouting of paths alongside a shift from within-path to between-path selection. Finally, this paper presents the organization as a landscape containing many interconnected paths. Whilst some are more dominant at different epochs, all retain an influence on the organization’s past, present and future.

11.3 Why is Business Administration still not an Evolutionary Science?