Organizational Ecology

Organizational ecology theory has its roots in the natural selection work in biology. It is primarily concerned with the founding and death of organizations and organizational survival (Hannan & Freeman, 1977).

In addition, this theory focuses on organizational populations as the main unit of analysis. Therefore, research using an ecological perspective tends to look at sets of organizations over long periods of time.

The main components of this theory include inertia, age, and niche focus:

  • Inertia refers to the idea that organizations formed under similar circumstances have similar features, which are retained over their lifespan (Hannan & Freeman, 1977).
  • Age concepts refer to the different pressures organizations face as they age. For instance, new organizations with new forms are more likely to fail (Stinchcombe, 1965).
  • And the niche focus concept explores how either a specialist or a generalist focus impacts organizational survival (Carroll, 1985).

The key concepts in this theory include:

  • Variation, selection, retention, competition model (Darwinian vs. Lamarckian)
  • Liability of newness (Stinchcombe 1965)
  • Structural inertia (internal and external) (Meyer & Rowan 1977)
  • Generalist vs. specialist (Meyer & Rowan 1977)
  • Variability (degree of change) and grain (speed of change)
  • Resource partitioning
  • Niche overlap
  • Localized competition Isomorphism to the context
(Adapted from course notes)
(Flashcards and other resources here)

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