Organizational Routines
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Organizational Routines

Advancing Empirical Research

Edited by Markus C. Becker and Nathalie Lazaric

This book showcases advanced empirical research that applies the concept of organizational routines to understanding organizations and how they change and evolve.
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Chapter 3: The Nature and Replication of Routines

Geoffrey M. Hodgson


Geoffrey M. Hodgson The significance of routines within organizations is widely appreciated.1 Without routines, people within organizations would be overburdened with additional interpersonal negotiations and choices. Routines provide modularized sets of skills or capacities, involving relatively durable structured relations between individuals. Given their importance, it is necessary to understand both how they can be built and how they can be changed. Such awareness is essential to any analysis of how knowledge is retained and transferred, for the development of business strategy, and for the creation of policies to encourage more beneficial business practices. Detailed empirical investigation is vital in this regard, but detailed taxonomic studies based on empirical evidence are relatively rare. One reason why empirical investigations have so far remained limited and problematic is that the conceptual specification of a routine remains obscure. Greater conceptual precision is an essential precondition of fruitful empirical enquiry. This chapter attempts to illuminate the concept of the routine, by citing relevant insights from philosophy, social theory and psychology, and by focusing on some milestone contributions in this area. It is divided into five sections. The first section addresses the analogous and component concept of habit, with a view to making a distinction between habits and routines. The second section explores the metaphor of ‘routines as genes’ and argues that routines must be treated as capacities or dispositions, rather than behaviours. The third section considers how routines persist and carry information through time. The fourth section raises the issue of...

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