"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."
Subjects: Management & Organizational Behavior
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