Creating and Breaking Paths in Organizational Culture: A Cognitive-Evolutionary Perspective

by Udo Staber


I discuss path dependence in organizational culture as an evolutionary process that is driven by a continuous stream of new variations, many of which lead to dead ends but are nevertheless important because they affect the fate of those variations that survive to the future. I conceptualize this process at the micro-level of ideas in terms of changes in the distribution of ideas in populations and environments in which ideas compete for human attention. For illustrative purposes I present a case study of an organizational project embedded in a “culture of creativity.” The findings indicate a process of path formation that is driven by competition among similar and different ideas, with variations in the timing and duration of combinations of ideas, and with outcomes that are neither unidirectional nor predictable.

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