The Endogenous Origins of Experience, Routines and Organizational Capabilities: The Poverty of Stimulus

Nicolai Juul Foss, Teppo Felin

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    In this paper we discuss the origins and emergence of organizational routines and capabilities. We first argue that there are theoretical and endogeneity-related concerns associated with the key antecedents and mechanisms specified by the extant routines and capabilities literature. Specifically, we explicate the behaviorist and empiricist foundations of the organizational routines and capabilities literature and the extant emphasis placed on experience, repetition, and observation as the key antecedents and mechanisms of routines and capabilities. Based on this discussion we highlight several, endogeneity-related concerns, namely: (1) the problem of origins and causation, (2) the problem of extremes, (3) the problem of intentionality, (4) the problem of new knowledge, and (5) the problem of the environment. We introduce the ‘poverty of stimulus’ argument and discuss how an internalist or rationalist, choice-based approach can provide a more fruitful (though preliminary) foundation for understanding organizational behavior and capabilities.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalJournal of Institutional Economics
    Issue number2
    Pages (from-to)231-256
    Publication statusPublished - 2011

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