Organizations as Artificial Intelligences: The Use of Artificial Intelligence Analogies in Organization Theory
Academy of Management Annals (forthcoming)
69 Pages Posted: 27 Apr 2021
Date Written: April 26, 2021
A rarely acknowledged fact about organization theory (OT) is that many of its ideas stem from the field of artificial intelligence (AI). For example, key OT concepts such as problemistic search, heuristics, exploration, requisite variety, and organizational scripts, all have their roots in AI. The main goal of this paper is to expose the full range of AI ideas that have been used in OT. We do so by explaining key AI ideas and showing how OT used them. Our review covers over 100 OT works that depend on AI ideas both critically and explicitly. We group these ideas into ten AI approaches that speak to three fundamental processes in organizations: search, representation, and aggregation. We argue that this broad and deep borrowing from AI stems from fundamental structural similarities between AI and OT, as both fields study how artificial systems (programs and organizations) can pursue intelligent behavior. We also identify areas of AI from which OT scholars may continue to draw inspiration and suggest ways in which AI technologies may continue to affect organizations. Overall, our work shows that, beyond its effect as a technology, AI has given OT a set of models about how organizations work.
Keywords: artificial intelligence, organization theory
JEL Classification: D21, D23, D81, D83, O31
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