Intentions, Intermediaries, and Interaction: Examining the Emergence of Routines
22 Pages Posted: 17 Nov 2012
Date Written: December 2012
A thorough understanding of how routines emerge is necessary to derive the performance benefits they yield for organizations. In this paper, we suggest that a routine emerges from interactions between actors, interactions that are enabled by the exchange of intermediaries. Specifically, intermediaries transmit the intentions of one actor to another and thus potentially align the actions and responses of those actors. If, however, the intermediaries that are exchanged do not clearly transmit the intentions of one actor to another, then a weak routine emerges. Conversely, if intermediaries clearly transmit the intentions, a strong routine emerges in which a given action more often meets with the expected response across iterations. We substantiate our arguments with a field experiment on the towel‐changing routine in a hotel where we manipulated the procedure to exchange towels, which resulted in the emergence of a stronger routine. Our study offers several implications for theoretical and empirical research on routines, including to the burgeoning research on micro‐foundations.
Keywords: actor‐network theory, emergence, intermediaries, micro‐foundations, routines
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