Professor of Applied Information Technology,
Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden
May 04, 2011
Speakman Hall 200, 1000am – 1130am
Seminar Title : Architectural Frames in Digital Innovation: Appreciating the Role of Generative Capability
In this paper, we develop a new theoretical model of complex product architecture in the digital age. Herbert Simon’s work has earned a dominant position in extant research, emphasizing decomposition with subsequent aggregation as the core principle for managing complexity. However, the ongoing digitization of tangible products suggests Christopher Alexander’s principle of generalization with subsequent specialization as a complementary approach. While previous research has pointed to the similarities between Simonian and Alexandrian thinking, we argue drawing on their differences can help us understand the complexity of architecting digitized products. In particular, such differentiation addresses the mismatch between the generative capacity of digital technology and the extant literature’s temporal sequencing of design and production in the product lifecycle.
The proposed theoretical model introduces the notion of architectural frames and provides two idealized representations of a complex product’s architecture: a Simonian hierarchy-of parts frame and an Alexandrian network-of-patterns frame. We explicate the nature of and interactions between the two frames in architecting digitized products. The model provides a new perspective for understanding how the generative capability of digital technology ignites fluid binding of functionality and distributed governance structures. We apply the proposed model to an empirical analysis of an automaker’s attempts to architect their car navigation system in response to technological change. Our research extends current views on product design and contributes to the emerging literature on innovation in the digital age.
Please click here for a copy of the full paper.