The purpose of this article is to describe how organizations have evolved across three periods of modern economic history. These periods can be called the age of competition, age of cooperation, and age of collaboration. The major organizational forms that appeared in each of the three eras, including their capabilities and limitations, are discussed. Across the eras of competition, cooperation, and collaboration, managers and organization designers changed their views about the use of resources. During the age of competition, managers believed it was important to control resources through ownership. Whatever resources the firm needs, it is the management’s job to acquire those resources for use by the firm. During the age of cooperation, managers’ resource strategies expanded to include the practice of “link and leverage.” Here the belief is that the firm need not own all of its resources; it can also link to other firms and thereby gain access to external resources. Finally, during the age of collaboration, managers learned the value of sharing resources. By forming resource commons that multiple parties can share, organizations in certain kinds of situations can achieve increasing returns on their use of resources.
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