The thinking organization?

This morning I picked up Herbert Simon’s [amazon_link id=”0684835827″ target=”_blank” ]Administrative Behavior: A Study of Decision-Making Processes in Administrative Organizations[/amazon_link]. I have the 4th edition of 1997 – the original was published in 1945. In between the 1st and 4th the computer and internet revolution happened, and so Simon added a chapter commenting on its implications. He famously pointed out that the proliferation of information increases the scarcity of attention: “The limit is not information but our capacity to attend to it.” (p226) This was indeed the subject of a fascinating workshop at the Toulouse School of Economics last September (pdf here – The Invisible Hand Meets the Invisible Gorilla).

He goes on to say that there is nothing new about drowning in information: “The information that nature presents to us is unimaginably redundant.” The challenge of today’s apparent flood of information is to find the appropriate ways of organizing and processing it. “As important as advances in hardware and software design will be advances in our understanding of human information processing – of thinking, problem solving and decision making.”

While we all admire the iPad3 and the Raspberry Pi, this is surely worth bearing in mind. If I were at the start of my career today, I’d certainly be tempted by the glamour of coding, and would definitely still love statistics and data visualization, but perhaps cognitive science and information theory would win out.

[amazon_image id=”0684835827″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Administrative Behavior: A Study of Decision-making Processes in Administrative Organizations: A Study of Decision-making Processes in Administrative Organisations[/amazon_image]

4 thoughts on “The thinking organization?

  1. You’re obviously an expert on this area – being an economist, I’ve read very little, essentially various things by Herb Simon, Oliver Williamson/Elinor Ostrom, & the public choice people, plus a few popular books. But I’m interested in how a large organization comes to have a particular view of the world and how that affects people’s behaviour. So I will follow up the leads!

  2. Hi Diane,
    I recommended on Twitter a book “the innovator’s dilemma”, and even though it’s a business book, the main topic is about how companies fail to reat to competition and new entrants on market even though they had everything to win the battle (technology, resources and “information”).
    I thought it was a fascinating book because the author shows that a lot of executives did everything right according to business books and MBA programs but still failed in an ocean of information.
    The book ends with some propositions to help organizations ‘increase’ their chance of survival by either having processes to handle the flood of information or the asymetry of incentives and unexpected competitors : to try to be a thinking organization.
    The theory is developed in an other fascinating book The innovator’s solution.


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