Article Information

Strategy and the Crystal Cycle
Mathews, John A.
47/2  (Winter 2005): 6-32

In industries characterized by very large capital investment and fast-moving technological dynamics, cyclical behavior emerges as the setting in which firms have to strategize. The barriers to entry in such settings are extremely high, but they can be breached—as shown in the Flat Panel Display industry, which has seen successive entries by Japanese, then Korean, then Taiwanese firms over the course of the past decade. In its short history, this industry has already exhibited four cycles (the “crystal cycle”) and a fifth downturn is now looming. However, the striking feature of the industry is that firms have successfully entered only during industry downturns, engaging in counter-cyclical investment; not a single firm has entered during an upturn. This provides the starting point for a strategic analysis of this fast-growing industry, conducted through a dynamic framework that complements the “competitive forces” framework introduced in a static setting by Porter over two decades ago. It is critical to draw on both dynamic and static frameworks to fully comprehend the strategic options open to firms.


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