Australian Innovation Research Centre

Colin Jones

Colin Jones - Pizza With an interest in evolutionary theory and its application in social science, Dr Colin Jones’s PhD focussed on determining the source of unobserved heterogeneity associated with the emergence and survival of small firms. He asked the question “why do some firms survive for considerably longer periods of time when other apparently similar types of firms operating under apparently similar conditions do not?

By compiling a case study of the Hobart pizza industry from 1975 to 2005, and comparing its development to three other independent market places in northern Tasmania and Victoria, Colin discovered an interesting paradox. That is, an increase in apparent competition over time was associated with increased firm survival, and Colin’s innovative research delved into the reasons underlying this paradox. 

Life (and therefore business) is unpredictable and theories that aim to achieve high predictability have never really impressed me… Evolutionary theory on the other hand is used to explain past events, with the explainer being responsible for accommodating the indeterminacy of outcomes.” (Aldrich, 1999, p. 33).

His explanation-based case study approach used the process of retroduction, to reveal five areas that influenced a firm’s survival. They were: non-harmful relations, environmental heterogeneity, the ability of firms to alter their environment, the presence of an invisible energy, and lastly, firm survival. Then after reviewing organizational studies and broader ecological literatures, Colin‘s initial model of Transferred Demand emerged. He then conducted a subsequent empirical investigation to subject his Transferred Demand model to empirical scrutiny in North Yorkshire (UK), covering the period 1975 to 2004. The subsequent confirmation of the model has led to a new and innovative explanation of firm survival.

By solving the initial contradiction that increased apparent competition occurring alongside increased firm survival, Colin not only enlisted a range of broader ecological theories in an innovative way, but also redefined what competition actually is.

Originally trained as a Diesel Fitter, Colin moved into the financial investments sector in the late eighties before establishing the VIP Home Services franchise group in Tasmania.

“Having developed and managed a large franchise chain in Tasmania for several years, I bring to this study a practical way of thinking about firm survival… I feel these subsequent reflections of my time in business have heightened my sensory abilities to probe beyond the obvious and commonly held explanations of firm survival to continually search for other less apparent reasons.”

A latecomer to academia, when Dr Colin Jones commenced his bachelor Business degree in 2000, he described himself as being “technically illiterate.” Since then he has made up for lost time, receiving nine teaching and research excellence awards, as well as being instrumental in helping establish courses in Entrepreneurship and Commercialisation at the University of Tasmania.