Memes in Organization Studies: A Preliminary Research Agenda
31 Pages Posted: 6 Sep 2012
Date Written: March 30, 2009
Richard Dawkins (1976) introduced the concept of 'memes' as the basic unit of cultural evolution in his popular classic work 'The Selfish Gene'. As organizations can be conceptualized as cultural entities, it makes sense to explore how the concept of memes can be applied in organization studies. Several works have started to appear on this front. This paper offers an introduction to the concept of memes and an account of the literature in the field of memetics. Ideas related to organization studies are explored in detail. It is seen that two key ideas have informed the research in organization studies thus far - 'memes drive us' and 'memes are unit of cultural transmission'. I argue that organization researchers will gain more by following 'memes as unit of cultural transmission' idea than 'memes drive us' idea. 'Memes drive us' is axiomatic in nature, anthropomorphizes organizations and is non-falsifiable as a theory, while 'memes as unit of cultural transmission' gives hope to the effort of unraveling the black box of organizational culture.
Keywords: Memes, Organizational Culture, Intra-organizational ecology
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