Shona Brown

Businessperson and corporate director, former Senior Advisor, Google Inc

Shona Lesley Brown (born ca. 1960) is an American business executive and consultant to non-profits and corporations. She was a Google executive for a decade, most recently the Senior Vice President of business operations in 2012, before stepping down to become an advisor to the company.

Shona Brown, 2007


"Product development" , 1995Edit

Shona L. Brown and Kathleen M. Eisenhardt. "Product development: Past research, present findings, and future directions." Academy of management review 20.2 (1995): 343-378.

  • The literature on product development continues to grow. This research is varied and vibrant, yet large and fragmented. In this article we first organize the burgeoning product-development literature into three streams of research: product development as rational plan, communication web, and disciplined problem solving. Second, we synthesize research findings into a model of factors affecting the success of product development. This model highlights the distinction between process performance and product effectiveness and the importance of agents, including team members, project leaders, senior management, customers, and suppliers, whose behavior affects these outcomes. Third, we indicate potential paths for future research based on the concepts and links that are missing or not well defined in the model.
    • p. 343; Abstract

"The art of continuous change", 1997Edit

Shona L. Brown and Kathleen M. Eisenhardt. "The art of continuous change: Linking complexity theory and time-paced evolution in relentlessly shifting organizations." Administrative science quarterly (1997): 1-34.

  • In contrast to the punctuated equilibrium model of change, this inductive study of multiple-product innovation in six firms in the computer industry examines how organizations engage in continuous change. Comparisons of successful and less-successful firms show, first, that successful multiple-product innovation blends limited structure around responsibilities and priorities with extensive communication and design freedom to create improvisation within current projects. This combination is neither so structured that change cannot occur nor so unstructured that chaos ensues. Second, successful firms rely on a wide variety of low-cost probes into the future, including experimental products, futurists, and strategic alliances. Neither planning nor reacting is as effective. Third, successful firms link the present and future together through rhythmic, time-paced transition processes. We develop the ideas of "semistructures," "links in time," and "sequenced steps" to crystallize the key properties of these continuously changing organizations and to extend thinking about complexity theory, time-paced evolution, and the nature of core capabilities.
    • p. 1; Abstract

Competing on the Edge, 1998Edit

Shona L. Brown, and Kathleen M. Eisenhardt (1998), Competing on the Edge: Strategy as Structured Chaos. Boston: Harvard Business School Press.

  • Complexity theory began with an interest u how order spring from chaos. According to complexity theory, adaption is most effective in systems that are only partially connected. The argument is that too much structure creates gridlock, while too little structure creates chaos. A good example would be the traffic lights in a city. If there are no lights, traffic is chaotic. If there are too many lights, traffic stops. A moderate number of lights creates structure, but still allows drivers to adapt their routes in surprising ways in response to changing traffic conditions. Consequently, the key to effective change is to stay poised on this edge of chaos. Complexity theory focuses managerial thinking on the interrelationships among different parts of an organization and on the trade-off of less control for greater adaptation.
    • p. 14
  • Although the behavior that emerges is complex, the rules that guide it are necessarily simple. In fact, it is their simplicity that creates the freedom to behave in complicated adaptive, and surprising ways.
    • p. 18
  • Coadaptation is the process whereby systems of related agents take mutual advantage of each other in order to change more effectively, yet still be adaptive in each agent's particular situation.
    • p. 60
  • In our work in fast- changing markets, we often see that time pacing helps managers avert the danger of changing too infrequently. By setting a regular pace for change, managers avoid becoming locked into old patterns and habits.
    • p. 67
  • Managers who extensively plan the future get the timing wrong. Sometimes they arrive to market too early and so must wait for the demand to catch up. Sometimes they are too late and so must accelerate to rejoin the future.
    • p. 135

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