Performance feedback, competitive repertoire simplicity, and technological evolution in a televised design contest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-413
JournalResearch Policy
Issue number2
Early online date16 Nov 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2014
Publication type

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Research suggests that in industries where firms compete primarily on the relative merits of their designs, performance feedback from repeated episodes of competitive rivalry often leads firms to focus their resources on progressively fewer design features. Applying Miller and Chen, 1996a, Miller and Chen, 1996b concept of ‘competitive repertoire simplicity’ we argue that the shift from broad to narrow set of technological options marking technological evolution is the product of multi-level interaction between competitive design decisions made at the individual firm level, and technological knowledge that accumulates at the industry level. Taking advantage of an elimination tournament called Robot Wars – where competition is transparent, regulated and is marked by repeat participation – we examine repertoire simplicity and its escalation over iterative episodes of dyadic rivalry. Using a data set of 296 robotic designs over 4 episodes of this design contest we find evidence for (a) escalating repertoire simplicity causing convergence in design configurations; and (b) hypothesized, but rarely tested, links between competition at the individual team level and technological evolution at the population level.