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Title: Ecosystem emergence : an investigation of the emergence processes of six digital service ecosystems
Author: Thomas, Llewellyn
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis investigates processes of ecosystem emergence. Ecosystem research has thus far focused on understanding the structure and dynamics of already existing ecosystems. However much less attention has been devoted to the emergence of ecosystems. I first theoretically develop an institutional approach to ecosystems, arguing that the ecosystem is an organisational field which has value co-creation as its recognised area of institutional life. Synthesising the theories of dominant design, social movements, and institutional entrepreneurship, I identify four activities that drive the processes of ecosystem emergence: resource, technological, institutional and contextual activities. Empirically, I compare the emergence sequences of six digital service ecosystems – Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google, Salesforce and Wikipedia – using a narrative explanation methodology, applying event colligation, optimal matching, direct inspection, frequency analysis and an innovative statistical bootstrapping technique. I find that emergence sequences of each case are significantly dissimilar and that there are three phases of emergence – Initiation, Momentum, Control. The first of these phases is similar across cases, but subsequent phases exhibit increasing dissimilarity as the ecosystem evolves and takes on idiosyncratic characteristics. To explain these findings, I develop an ecosystem perspective that explicitly integrates value co-creation processes as an important regulator of the evolution of ecosystems. I suggest that idiosyncratic logics of value co-creation result in differing value creation processes. I show that the three distinct phases of ecosystem emergence form a coherent, distinctive whole when considered from the perspective of value co-creation. Emphasising that value appropriated must first be co-created, I propose the ‘ecosystem model’ as an analytic tool to better conceptualise value co-creation and appropriation in ecosystems. I discuss the implications of these contributions for ecosystem research, institutional theory, and strategic management practice.
Supervisor: Autio, Erkko ; Gann, David Sponsor: Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral