Coevolution in management fashion: an agent-based model of consultant-driven innovation

Strang, David, David, Robert J. and Akhlaghpour, Saeed (2014) Coevolution in management fashion: an agent-based model of consultant-driven innovation. American Journal of Sociology, 120 (1) . pp. 226-264. ISSN 0002-9602 [Article] (doi:10.1086/677206)


The rise of management consultancy has been accompanied by increasingly marked faddish cycles in management techniques, but mechanisms that underlie this relationship are not well understood. We develop a simple agent-based framework that models innovation adoption and abandonment on both the supply- and demand-side. In opposition to conceptions of consultants as rhetorical wizards who engineer waves of management fashion, firms and consultants are treated as boundedly rational actors who chase the secrets of success by mimicking their highest performing peers. Computational experiments demonstrate that consultant-driven versions of this dynamic – where the outcomes of firms are strongly conditioned by their choice of consultant – are robustly faddish. The invasion of boom markets by low-quality consultants undercuts popular innovations while simultaneously re-starting the fashion cycle by prompting the flight of high-quality consultants into less densely occupied niches. Computational experiments also indicate conditions involving consultant mobility, aspiration levels, mimic probabilities, and client-provider matching that attenuate faddishness.

Item Type: Article
Research Areas: A. > Business School > International Management and Innovation
Item ID: 13317
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Depositing User: Saeed Akhlaghpour
Date Deposited: 23 May 2014 09:15
Last Modified: 27 Apr 2020 10:43

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