Disentangling Discontinuous Environmental Change



Discontinuous environmental change, or synonyms such as crises and jolts, is initiated by a significant environmental event. Existing studies and findings tend to assume homogeneity among changes. By addressing the research question – how do various discontinuous change influence firm strategy and performance differently? – the aim of this dissertation is to elucidate the heterogeneity amongst fundamental types of discontinuous change. Along the institutional pluralism view of organizational environment, I develop the typology of discontinuous change (namely stepwise, shocking, and disruptive change), distinguished by the levels of institutional complexity. Based on this typology, I disentangle their impacts on performance consequences, and the effectiveness of strategic responses across different discontinuous change. Using a sample of Hong Kong listed firms during 1997 to 2009, I will examine the heterogeneous effects by three significant environmental events: The 1997 Handover, SARS outbreak, and Financial Crisis in 2008. This dissertation offers theoretical contributions to jolt-related research by examining the nature of discontinuous change, and theoretically linking the typology the typology of discontinuous change to their differential impacts on firm activities and performance. It also provides insights in exploring and extending future jolt-related research.