The role of cognitive artifacts in organizational routine dynamics: an agent-based model

Abstract

Organizational routines consist of a mix of human actors and artifacts. Indeed, organizational settings are populated by a variety of cognitive artifacts, such as operating standards and prioritization rules, which encapsulate two types of knowledge: standards and regulations constraining individual action and rules sustaining explorative capacities of individuals. In order to investigate the role that cognitive artifacts may play in the formation and change of organizational routines, we developed an agent-based model that simulated environmental tasks, individual action and organizational settings. Our simulation results show that these two kinds of knowledge have different effects on routine dynamics and that when constraining knowledge and explorative capacities complement each other, routines are more efficacious. This indicates that organizational design should try to harmonize standardization and individual exploration. We also found that increasing the level of both these two kinds of knowledge inherent in cognitive artifacts within a dynamic environment tends to accelerate the adaptively changing processes of the routine system although at the expense of higher operating costs. Finally, we found that the impact of organizational inertia on the routine system might be either negative or positive, depending on a triangle relation among cognitive artifacts, environmental characteristics and inertia.

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Acknowledgements

The research work in this paper has been sponsored by National Natural Science Foundation of China (under Grant No. 71501113), Shandong Provincial Natural Science Foundation (under Grant No. ZR2016GB06 and ZR2016GQ07), Aviation Science Foundation of China (under Grant No. 2015ZG51075) and the Shandong Technology and Business University (SDTBU)’s Doctoral Foundation (under Grant No. BS201606). The authors would like to thank Professor Kent D. Miller from Michigan State University who provided constructive comments during the early stage of this work.

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Correspondence to Dehua Gao.

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Gao, D., Squazzoni, F. & Deng, X. The role of cognitive artifacts in organizational routine dynamics: an agent-based model. Comput Math Organ Theory 24, 473–499 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10588-018-9263-y

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Keywords

  • Organizational routines
  • Cognitive artifacts
  • Knowledge
  • Organizational environment
  • Agent-based model