A Cognitive Theory of the Firm

A Cognitive Theory of the Firm

Learning, Governance and Dynamic Capabilities

Bart Nooteboom

In this important and timely book, Bart Nooteboom develops and applies a social cognitive theory of firms and organizations with a focus on learning and innovation.

Chapter 2: Embodied Cognition

Bart Nooteboom

Subjects: business and management, organisation studies, economics and finance, economic psychology, industrial economics, institutional economics


INTRODUCTION This chapter summarizes a theory of cognition, including a theory of meaning. That is a tricky endeavour, since concerning both knowledge and meaning there are a variety of theories and schools of thought that are more or less at odds with each other. Here a choice and selection is made from insights offered in the relevant literatures. This endeavour is inevitably essayistic. I claim that the selection I make is coherent and fruitful, and I provide some arguments for that claim but I cannot provide all the evidence, argument and counter-argument for all that I select. The theory selected is a constructivist, interactionist view of knowledge that has come to be known as the perspective of ‘embodied cognition’. That view has roots in earlier developmental psychology (Piaget, Vygotsky) and in sociology (G.H. Mead), and more recently has received further more substantive evidence from neural science (Edelman). The theory entails the notion of cognitive distance between people that will serve as a cornerstone for the cognitive theory of the firm developed in Chapter 3. There, organization is viewed as a cognitive focusing device, limiting cognitive distance between people in an organization. This results in organizational myopia that necessitates compensation from external relations with other organizations at a larger cognitive distance. In that way, relationships between organizations become an integral part of the theory of the firm. Some of the text for this chapter is taken from Nooteboom (2000: Chapter 6) with additions from other sources, especially from an edited volume...

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