Back to the Future: Technology Reemergence through the Lens of Music Synthesizers
Dr. Mary Tripsas, Associate Professor, Carroll School of Management, Boston College
Friday, May 3, 2019 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Models of technological change typically adopt a perspective in which technologies continuously improve along dimensions such as capabilities, features and price-performance ratios. Yet recent observations of the reemergence of “old” technologies – such as vinyl records, film cameras, and analog watches – suggest that technology markets may be more complex than such linear models allow. Unfortunately, we lack understanding of how producers and consumers interact to shape technology reemergence over time. Our paper sheds light on this process. Leveraging 30 years of data on music synthesizers, including hundreds of artist interviews and product advertisements, we show how waves of “creative destruction” can also plant and fertilize the seeds of reemergence. Specifically, we trace how latent consumer demand that is informed by a prior technology and unmet by a supplanting technology can lead manufacturers to engage in iterative efforts to make a “new” technology increasingly look, feel and sound like the very technology it replaced. Ultimately, this dynamic leads to the reemergence of both old technologies and the firms that originally developed them. We discuss the implications of our work for research on technology lifecycles, professional expertise, and category emergence.
Professor Mary Tripsas is a leading management scholar whose research and teaching focus on innovation, entrepreneurship and strategy. Her work on the transformation of industries by new technology has illustrated the importance of organizational identity and managerial mental models in shaping strategic responses to technological shifts. She has explored the emergence of digital imaging, the evolution of the typesetter industry, and is currently engaged in studies of eBooks, air taxis, and innovation in music. Before entering academia, she was a strategy consultant in the Cambridge and Milan offices of the Monitor Group and worked for IBM in the early 1980’s as both a software developer and member of the sales force. She also served on the board of directors of Lexar Media (NASDAQ: LEXR) from 2003 to 2006, when the company was acquired by Micron.