Handbook of Organizational Routines
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Handbook of Organizational Routines

Edited by Markus C. Becker

This cutting-edge, multidisciplinary Handbook comprises specially commissioned contributions surveying state-of-the-art research on the concept of organizational routines. An authoritative overview of the concept of organizational routines and its contributions to our understanding of organizations is presented. To identify those contributions, the role of organizational routines in such processes as organizational learning, performance feedback, and organizational memory is discussed. To identify how the concept can contribute to different disciplinary fields, the expert authors review applications across a range of fields including political science, sociology, and accounting.
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Chapter 4: Routines, ‘Going Concerns’ and Innovation: Towards an Evolutionary Economic Sociology

Marc J. Ventresca and William N. Kaghan


Marc J. Ventresca and William N. Kaghan Introduction: opening up the dynamics of routines The language of routines in much strategy and organization theory research today is grounded in ideas that live between the Carnegie tradition’s approach to organizational behavior and institutions (Cyert and March, 1962; March and Olsen, 1979; Cohen and Levinthal, 1990; March and Simon, 1993) and neo-Schumpeterian evolutionary economics (Nelson and Winter, 1982). This view treats routines (rather than individuals1) as the basic unit of organizational action, foregrounds programmed activity and gives primacy to selection and retention mechanisms operating over time as central to understanding processes of organizational stability, learning, adaptation, and decline. Current research explores how and to what degree routines build into broader organizational competencies and affect organizational adaptation. The broad contemporary move in the study of organization routines highlights concern with explaining organizational and institutional innovation, a move in which traditional views of routines as ‘habitual/inertial’ and stable encounter difficulty. The gift of an evolutionary economics is to enjoin researchers to explore ‘creative’ aspects in the variation of routines and to be wary of assuming equilibrium conditions at both micro and more macro levels. In short, this work served to develop more fully the intuitions of Schumpeter’s ([1934] 1983, [1942] 1975) imagery of ‘creative destruction’. In current research, these arguments emphasize how understanding the nature of the adaptation of organizational routines is critical to understanding how firms survive and possibly thrive (or decline and die) in competitive environments, and that modifying organizational...

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