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Architectural innovation therefore presents established organizations with subtle challenges that may have significant competitive implications.


In 1990, Rebecca M. Henderson from MIT and Kim B.Clark from Harvard University wrote an article: “The Reconfiguration of Existing Product Technologies and the Failure of Established Firms”, describe an innovation typology that was base on an innovation´s impacto on core design components and relationships between them.



The distinctions between radical, incremental, and architectural innovations are matters of degree


  • Incremental innovation: introduce quality improvements in core components. The Word renovation would more precisely describe this type of innovation.Tends to reinforce the competitive positions or established firms.


  • Modular innovation: may result in the complete redesign of core components, while leaving linkages between the components unchanged.


  • Architectural innovation: changes the nature of internations between core components, while reinforcing the core design concepts.


Is designed to draw attention to innovations that use many existing core design concepts in a new architecture and that therefore have a more significat impacto on the relationships between components than on the technologies of the components themselves.


  • Radical innovations: introduce a new meaning, potentially a paradigm shift.


Creates unmistakable challenges for established firms, since it destroys the usefulness of their existing capabilities.




The concept of architectural innovation and the related concepts of component and architectural knowledge have a number of important implications. Open up new areas in understanding the connections between innovation and organizational capability. An architectural innovation´s affect despends in a direct way on the nature of organizational learning. Learning about changes in architecture-about new interactions across components may therefore require explicit management and attention.


To the degree that manufacturing, marketing, and finance rely on communication channels, information filters, and problem-solving strategies to integrate their work together, architectural innovation at the firm level may also be a significant issue. An understanding of architectural innovation would be useful to discussions of the effect o technology on competitive strategy.


Modular Innovations is where you maintain the architecture and modify and modify the modules. Architectural innovation is where the architecture changes.



Some issues to consider:


  1. By creating incompatibilities you develop lock in features and generate high switching costs.

  2. By developing modules you do not have to change the underlying architecture.

  3. Modular systems shorten PLC.

  4. It stimulates specialization.

  5. Increases scale and differentiation.

  6. Builds alliances.

  7. Competitiors form Satndards organizations to ensure consistency in the development of systems.

  8. Market Power. Sometimes powerful groups and organizations can prevent the best technology from being utilized.

  9. Reduces risk increases investment.

  10. Adoption of new architecture can be slow.

  11. Modular and architectural innovation are the extreme cases.

  12. Modular complementary innovation. Complementary modules emerge that increase the potential of the new module.

  13. Modular transformation, a new module may act as a bridge between two different architecture.

  14. Modular upgrading may occur when a new or improved module spawns complementary modules.

  15. Architectural Knowledge. Occasionally a company not normally seen as a threat transforms the competitie environment.

  16. First Mover Advantage. Building a dominant market share.





  • Henderson & Clark Architectural innovation: “The reconfiguration of existing product technologies and the failure of established firms”, Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol.35, No.1, Ed. Sage Publications, Inc; Johnson Graduate School o Management, Cornell University.:1990


  • Wikipedia




Links relationed:


  • Harvard Business School


  • Rebecca M. Henderson













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