ogy that comes out of this synthesis ordinarily has either performance or quality advantages or reduced production costs; under the best of circumstances, the innovation produces all three.

A key point with regard to complex technologies is that there is no capacity for understanding them in detail. Certainly there is no such understanding of how the innovation of complex technologies occurs. Complex technologies are largely the result of trial and error. They build substantially on an accumulation of knowledge within an industry or a technological area, and they benefit especially from organizational arrangements with established organizational routines and heuristics that inform and guide the process of incremental innovation.

It is generally true that incremental innovations of complex technologies involve a process of learning by organizational networks. The way the organizations interact in the networks is at least as important as the research, and in many instances a good bit more so.

To set this in context it is useful to use a series of trajectories to illustrate what commonly occurs with regard to complex technologies. Complex technologies tend to be launched either by what are called radical innovations—that is, innovations that are first of a kind—or by what we call trajectory transitions. A trajectory transition occurs when the basic design or the technological platform at the center of a continuing series of incremental innovations changes fundamentally.

In Figure 2.1 are three S-curves defining the trajectory of audio technologies. The bottom left curve indicates the audio technology that started with Edison's cylinder and then moved incrementally to the


Trajectory of audio technologies.

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