Cultural Evolution Theory and Organizations

Brahm, F and Poblete, J (2021) Cultural Evolution Theory and Organizations. Working Paper. London Business School Strategy and Entrepreneurship.


Fully explaining organizational phenomena requires exploring not only "how" a phenomenon works i.e., the details of its internal structure and mechanisms but also "why" the phenomenon is present in the first place i.e., explaining its origins and the ultimate reasons for its existence. The latter is particularly important for central questions in organizational research such as the nature of organizations, the evolution of organizational culture, or the origin of organizational capabilities. In this article, we propose that Cultural Evolution Theory (CET) can be usefully applied to organizational scholarship to pursue such "original" questions. CET has adapted ideas and methods from evolutionary biology to successfully explain the evolution of culture in human societies, exploring the origins of various social phenomena such as religion, technological progress, largescale cooperation, and crosscultural psychological variation. We elaborate how CET can be also applied to understand the evolution and origin of important organizational phenomena. We discuss how CET provides ultimate explanations using microevolution formal models and deploying macroevolution tools for empirical analysis. We provide a detailed application of these ideas to the origin of productive organizations (e.g., firms, partnerships, guilds). We also propose several avenues for future research; in particular, we explore how CET can serve as an overarching theoretical framework that helps integrating the myriad of theories that explain how organizations work.

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Item Type: Monograph (Working Paper)
Subject Areas: Strategy and Entrepreneurship
Date Deposited: 05 Sep 2023 15:23
Last Modified: 14 Sep 2023 10:29

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