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Age-Related Structural Inertia: A Distance-based Approach

Le Mens, G.; Hannan, M.T.; Polos, L.

Age-Related Structural Inertia: A Distance-based Approach Thumbnail


G. Le Mens

M.T. Hannan


This paper proposes a distance-based characterization of age-related structural inertia as an increasing constraint on the speed of change as organizations age. Our framework regards organizations as points in multidimensional metric spaces of architectures. Organizational change means movement in this space. The speed of change is the ratio of the distance between positions in a space and the time it took for the organization to make the move. We illustrate how our distance-based approach can be used to formulate theories of age-related organizational inertia by using this representation to develop a model for a possible mechanism: age-related cultural resistance to change based on the dynamics of exposure of organizational members to architectural features. Our proposed mechanism is distinct from prevailing explanations and leads to new predictions. We also illustrate the value of our distance-based approach in a reanalysis of Sørensen and Stuart’s study of age variations in firms’ patenting behavior [Sørensen JB, Stuart TE (2000) Aging, obsolescence, and organizational innovation. Admin. Sci. Quart. 45(1):81–112]. On the basis of patent citations, we construct a space that allows us to characterize the positions of organizations and the speed at which they change. We find that organizational age has a negative effect on the speed of change.


Le Mens, G., Hannan, M., & Polos, L. (2015). Age-Related Structural Inertia: A Distance-based Approach. Organization Science, 26(3), 756-773.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Mar 20, 2015
Publication Date Jun 1, 2015
Deposit Date Nov 11, 2014
Publicly Available Date Mar 20, 2016
Journal Organization Science
Print ISSN 1047-7039
Electronic ISSN 1526-5455
Publisher Institute for Operations Research and Management Sciences
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 26
Issue 3
Pages 756-773
Keywords Organizational inertia, Age dependence, Adaptation, Change, Knowledge space.
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