Unfit to Learn? How Long View Organizations Adapt to Environmental Jolts
40 Pages Posted: 12 Apr 2007
Date Written: March 28, 2007
Long view organizations have a technical core combining high levels of Woodwardian (1958) technological complexity and Thompsonian (1967) technological intensity. This significantly diminishes their capacity for operational flexibility and strategic adaptation. Little is known about how such organizations manage to learn from rare events. We shed light on this issue by reporting a thirteen-year longitudinal study of a major oil company, tracing its experiences with a socio-political crisis from original preparations to learnings that did not fully materialize until years after the event. We use three alternate templates to interpret the organization’s struggle to maintain its technical core under conditions of fierce contestation by changing constituent groups and dwindling public support: (1) a stakeholder template mapping shifts in the salience of constituent groups that punctuate long-standing negotiated equilibria; (2) a legitimacy template showing migration towards new forms of legitimacy while old forms crumble; and (3) a capability template highlighting how pre-existing stocks of capabilities hinder learning before being supplanted by new ones. These templates are tied together in a set of integrative propositions stating how long view organizations learn from rare events.
Keywords: Institutional theory, Alternate templates, Environmental jolts, Oil industry, Organizational learning, Resource-based view, Stakeholder theory
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