Publication 2531

Brocklesby J. (2011) From building environmental representations to structural coupling: An autopoietic theory perspective on the theory and practice of strategic management. Systems Research and Behavioral Science. 28(6): 618–630. Fulltext at
This paper seeks to extend the usefulness of autopoietic theory within organization studies by tying it to a renewal of interest in that field in real-world activities, micro-level practices and process thinking more generally. Focusing specifically on strategic management, the paper attempts to demonstrate how autopoietic theory’s distinctive perspective on cognition and structural coupling can provide more convincing accounts of this area of practice than is possible using conventional understandings. Using the dominant ‘cognitivist’ approach as a starting point and using illustrative material taken from a major research project that has examined the strategic management process in exemplar firms, the paper questions the idea that strategic activities and outcomes reflect the intent, decisions and interventions of managers to accommodate, respond to and/or exploit external circumstances. The paper has argued that more convincing accounts are possible using the autopoietic theory’s more process-based, co-evolutionary and self-organizing perspective.


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