Organizational scholars often adopt biological models to explain the emergence and evolution of organizations and human systems. One recent example of such adoption is the organizational ecosystem metaphor. In this article, we contend that taking a rigorous ecological approach over the application of loose ecosystem language has the potential to illuminate patterns in the life span of organizations and human systems. We first define five central properties of biological ecosystems and demonstrate their potential relevance to human-constructed systems (organizational ecosystems). We then argue the value of developing biologically based hypotheses that can be tested in the context of organizational systems. Next, we propose a set of hypotheses specific to organizational stability and disruption, using Arizona charter schools as an example to demonstrate the promise of the rigorous application of the organizational ecosystem metaphor. We close with a discussion of how the insights generated might be applied across other organizational settings and systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)382-391
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Management Inquiry
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018


  • network analysis
  • organization theory
  • organizational ecology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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