The morphogenesis of organisational capabilities
conference contributionposted on 28.09.2017, 10:15 by Roy MeritonRoy Meriton, Krsto Pandza
The capabilities micro-foundation literature has been enjoying “celebrity” status appearing in many special issues of top ranked journals in recent years. In this paper we seek to add our voice to this burgeoning field. Traditional theorising in the field seems to have been polarised on the one hand by utility maximisation of the neoclassical school while on the other by the satisficing principle of bounded rationality. Of late the conversation has taken on an ontological turn and battle lines drawn between methodological individualism and methodological collectivism. Both schools of thoughts are variously illuminating in their own right. However, to the extent that transcending the individualism-collectivism divide offers a mutually inclusive solution we suggest looking at the problematic from a third perspective. In this paper we draw on the critical realist ontology to propose a morphogenesis approach to the study of capabilities and its origins. We argue that the emergent nature of capabilities is sympathetic to Archer’s notion of analytical dualism. As such we expose organisational capabilities as emergent social structures existing in a dialectical and reciprocal interplay between the emergent powers of structure, culture and agency. Defined in terms of patterns of action, we build our argument premised on the objective pre-existence of capabilities which serve to condition the situational logic of action. Organisational actors faced with objective situations exercise their own subjective properties to weigh the opportunity cost of one course of action over another. Actions endorsing the status quo lead to the reproduction of capabilities (morphostasis) while transformative actions lead to change or dynamic capabilities (morphogenesis). Given that organisations exist in a continuous flow of action the resulting morphostasis or morphogenesis constitutes the anterior conditioning forces for the new cycle of interaction. By maintaining the ontic differentiation between structure and agency the conditions of action are therefore rendered analytically separable from action itself, so enabling their interplay, as opposed to their mutual interpenetration, to be explored.
- Loughborough University London