Handbook of Knowledge and Economics
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Handbook of Knowledge and Economics

Edited by Richard Arena, Agnès Festré and Nathalie Lazaric

By illuminating the philosophical roots of the various notions of knowledge employed by economists, this Handbook helps to disentangle conceptual and typological issues surrounding the debate on knowledge amongst economists. Wide-ranging in scope, it explores fundamental aspects of the relationship between knowledge and economics – such as the nature of knowledge, knowledge acquisition and knowledge diffusion.
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Chapter 15: Embodied Cognition, Organization and Innovation

Bart Nooteboom


Bart Nooteboom 15.1 INTRODUCTION This chapter adopts a constructivist, interactionist perspective on knowledge that emerged from the developmental psychology of, in particular, Piaget and Vygotsky. According to this view, cognition is not only the basis of action but also a result of it, and ‘intelligence is internalized action’. We perceive, interpret and evaluate the world on the basis of cognitive categories that we construct in interaction with that world, particularly in interaction with other people. These categories constitute our ‘absorptive capacity’ (Cohen and Levinthal, 1990). As a result, people see the world differently to the extent that they have developed their cognition along different life trajectories, in different environments. In the literature on management and organization, this view has also been called the ‘activity view’ of knowledge (Blackler, 1995), and it has been widely adopted by many scholars of organization (e.g. Weick, 1979, 1995). This view also has roots in sociology, in particular in the ‘symbolic interactionism’ of G.H. Mead (1934). More recently it has received further substance from neural science, in what has come to be known as ‘embodied cognition’, which will be discussed in some detail in this chapter. This perspective has far-reaching implications for economics and management, and enables improved understanding of the ‘knowledge economy’ and the ‘network economy’, or what has recently received the fashionable label of ‘open innovation’ (Chesbrough, 2003). Clearly, if knowledge arises from interaction with others, in a ‘knowledge economy’ interaction between firms in networks becomes crucial. So the claim here is that...

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