Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group


First Advisor

Daniel A. Levinthal


In this dissertation, I focus on the conceptualization and empirical investigation of organizational adaptation. Specifically, I intend to study how dynamic organizations evolve and under which conditions they successfully adapt to a changing environment. In essay 1 (with D. Levinthal), we develop a simulation model to clarify and explore some of the basic conceptual issues concerning the dynamics through which business practices locally adapt within an intra-organizational ecology of organizational level skills, knowledge, and capabilities subject to processes of mutation and selection. For essay 2 (with A. Prencipe), we designed and conducted a field project by collecting qualitative data: a mix of archival data, interviews and ethnographic field notes. The main goal is to investigate how organizational adaptation plays out under the pressure of various institutional forces. Our findings illustrate that institutional forces generate selective reactions within the ecology of existing organizational routines. Conversely, non-institutional forces adapt to the existing behavioral forms following a two-way dynamic process. In essay 3, I developed an empirical research design based on a panel data analysis to investigate the role of dynamic capabilities in boosting adaptation performance. This work examines some of the fundamental contingencies that impact the relationship between dynamic capabilities and organizational performance. Specifically, although prior experience in product adaptation is considered as a key driver of superior performance, its value is found to be highly conditional on both the level of focal activity - a recent adaptation effort on specific activities - and the intensity of the environmental changes.