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date: 23 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Organizational memory is defined as the means by which knowledge from the past is brought to bear on present organizational activities. Knowledge retained in organizational memory is acquired experientially in operations and vicariously from others, and it improves performance in the present by conditioning an organization’s productivity in operations. Organizational memory, however, can also negatively affect future performance as it can result in encased learning and in inertia that depletes an organization’s adaptive potential. The net effect of organizational memory on performance is thus a tradeoff between benefitting from improved productivity and returns today versus benefitting from lower returns tomorrow due to inertia and limited adaptive potential. Given this, I propose that the productivity-enhancing aspects of organizational memory are more important for the sustainability of organizational performance than its inertia-producing aspect.

Keywords: organizational learning, learning curves, organizational memory, transactive memory systems, organizational forgetting, productivity, absorptive capacity, adaptation

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