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The Emergence of emerging technologies

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What is discontinuous about the moment of radical technological change? The authors suggest that the discontinuity typically does not lie in a radical advancement in technology itself; rather, the discontinuity stems from a shift of an existing technical lineage to a new domain of application. Seeming revolutions such as wireless communication and the Internet did not stem from an isolated technical breakthrough. Rather, the spectacular commercial impact was achieved when an existing technology was re-applied in a new application domain. The authors use the biological notion of speciation events, which form the basis for the theory of punctuated equilibrium, to reconcile the process of incremental change within a given line of technical development with the radical change associated with the shift of an existing technology to a new application domain. They then use this lens to explore how managers can cope with, and potentially exploit, such change processes.

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