The ideas and examples referenced below are notes compiled by Robert Keel and Shannon Mayer in their reading of Volti's, Society and Technological Change, 6th edition, Worth Publishers, 2010. They are intended for classroom use.
ORGANIZATIONS AND TECHNOLOGICAL CHANGE
Technology as a Cause of Organizational Structure
- Printing industry that required great skill from the worker
- Thus, worker had significant autonomy
- Textile Mills machines did all the work
- Workers merely cogs in the system. Had little autonomy
- Unit and small batch production e.g. shipbuilding
- Large-batch and mass production e.g. automobile manufacturing
- Process production e.g. production of chemical/petroleum products
- Perrows definition of technology it is a way of doing things
- Perrow not concerned with specific material stuff used in technology but rather, overall organizational effectiveness.
- Organizational structure is (should be) based on the particular qualities of the raw materials used the technologies used to process these materials.
Despite the differences among the three theories, all concur that technology does influence organizational structure. Also, in order to be successful, an organization needs to match its organizational structures and processes to the technologies it employs.
Technology as a Consequence of Organizational Structure
An organization responsible for a sizable portion of an industry can greatly influence the technological development of the industry as a whole when it creates (or refrains from creating) new products. (270) (The Browser Wars) (Time's coverage of Microsoft's Anti-Trust Case)
"A technology might be selected not because of its innate superiority, but because it meets the needs of the power holders within that organization." (Ibid.)
Interorganizational Relations and Technological Development
- Industry historically dependent on many sources for supplies
- Suppliers called OEMs (original equipment manufacturers)
- Traditionally, relationship between OEM and Auto was non-cooperative
- OEMs were uncertain of how their products were being used
- This relationship is one reason why American cars fared so poorly against Japanese
- Japan relies on much more cooperation between auto and OEM
- American Auto beginning to cooperated more with OEMs
"...The creation of effective working relationships between separate organizations is an essential element of technological and economic vitality." (274)
Organizational Size and Technological Innovation
Entrepreneurs and Organizations
- Formalization (use of rules and regulations)
- Hierarchical authority
"There is a basic incompatibility of the new inventor and the large corporation. Large companies have well-developed planning mechanisms which need to know at the beginning of a new project how much it will cost, how long it will take, and above all what its going to do. None of these answers may be apparent to the inventor." (276) Jack Kilby, co-inventor of the integrated circuit
1. If you directed a research laboratory how would you structure work so as to allow for creativity, but inhibit the wasting of time on unproductive tangents? How would you distinguish between productive and creative ideas and potentially unproductive ideas?
2. Many key industries are dominated by a handful of large firms. This tendency has become common in light of consolidations and buy outs. How might this trend impact technological innovation? What may its impact be on overall economic development?
3. In 1986 Steve Jobs was eased out as the president of Apple? Why? About 2 years ago he was rehired. Why?