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"The first component of intelligence involves effective adaptation to an environment. In order to adapt effectively, organizations require resources, capabilities at using them, knowledge about the worlds in which they exist, good fortune, and good decisions. They typically face competition for resources and uncertainties about the future. Many, but possibly not all, of the factors determining their fates are outside their control. Populations of organizations and individual organizations survive, in part, presumably because they possess adaptive intelligence; but survival is by no means assured. The second component of intelligence involves the elegance of interpretations of the experiences of life. Such interpretations encompass both theories of history and philosophies of meaning, but they go beyond such things to comprehend the grubby details of daily existence. Interpretations decorate human existence. They make a claim to significance that is independent of their contribution to effective action. Such intelligence glories in the contemplation, comprehension, and appreciation of life, not just the control of it."—from The Ambiguities of Experience In The Ambiguities of Experience, James G. March asks a deceptively simple question: What is, or should be, the role of experience in creating intelligence, particularly in organizations? Folk wisdom both trumpets the significance of experience and warns of its inadequacies. On one hand, experience is described as the best teacher. On the other hand, experience is described as the teacher of fools, of those unable or unwilling to learn from accumulated knowledge or the teaching of experts. The disagreement between those folk aphorisms reflects profound questions about the human pursuit of intelligence through learning from experience that have long confronted philosophers and social scientists. This book considers the unexpected problems organizations (and the individuals in them) face when they rely on experience to adapt, improve, and survive. While acknowledging the power of learning from experience and the extensive use of experience as a basis for adaptation and for constructing stories and models of history, this book examines the problems with such learning. March argues that although individuals and organizations are eager to derive intelligence from experience, the inferences stemming from that eagerness are often misguided. The problems lie partly in errors in how people think, but even more so in properties of experience that confound learning from it. "Experience," March concludes, "may possibly be the best teacher, but it is not a particularly good teacher."
This collection of recent papers authored or co-authored by James G. March explores contemporary issues in the study of organizations.
Leadership and Coherence investigates how leaders justify their decisions, and how they bring about coherence amongst followers. Taking a cognitive approach, it builds on the work of Hannah Arendt to attempt a phenomenology of judgment, examining how the moral imperative experienced by leaders can be shared by their community so both leader and led are guided by a mutual purpose. Through biographical case studies of historical leaders, this book illustrates how successful leaders operate in a turbulent world, not only making their own decisions but also gathering likeminded followers to share in a common vision and shared sense of purpose.
This book collects together for the first time over 20 of James March's key essays, including those co-authorised with R.M. Cyert and J.P. Olsen and others. The coverage ranges from his early work on the behavioural theory of the firm, through conflict and adaptive rules in organizations, to decision-making under ambiguity (including the famed 'garbage can' model).
Behavioural Theory of the Firm has become a classic work in organizational theory, and is one of the most significant contributions to improving the theory of the firm. This second edition includes new material which puts the original text in a contemporary context.

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