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Revolutionary Change Theories: A Multilevel Exploration of the Punctuated Equilibrium Paradigm

Connie J. G. Gersick
The Academy of Management Review
Vol. 16, No. 1 (Jan., 1991), pp. 10-36
Published by: Academy of Management
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/258605
Page Count: 27
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Revolutionary Change Theories: A Multilevel Exploration of the Punctuated Equilibrium Paradigm
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Abstract

Research on how organizational systems develop and change is shaped, at every level of analysis, by traditional assumptions about how change works. New theories in several fields are challenging some of the most pervasive of these assumptions, by conceptualizing change as a punctuated equilibrium: an alternation between long periods when stable infrastructures permit only incremental adaptations, and brief periods of revolutionary upheaval. This article compares models from six domains-adult, group, and organizational development, history of science, biological evolution, and physical science-to explicate the punctuated equilibrium paradigm and show its broad applicability for organizational studies. Models are juxtaposed to generate new research questions about revolutionary change in organizational settings: how it is triggered, how systems function during such periods, and how it concludes. The article closes with implications for research and theory.

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