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An Empirical Assessment of the Influence of March and Simon’s Organizations: The Realized Contribution and Unfulfilled Promise of a Masterpiece

Marc H. Anderson and Russell K. Lemken

Journal of Management Studies, 2019, vol. 56, issue 8, 1537-1569

Abstract: March and Simon’s Organizations is a seminal work in management studies. We assess the contribution Organizations has made to management studies through a citation context analysis of 1,400 articles from top management journals. By categorizing the content from Organizations cited in subsequent works, we find that two related categories associated with cognitive limits and routines or programs account for half (50.5%) of all citation contexts since 1990. We also investigate whether citations to Organizations have been peripheral or substantial to the citing authors’ claims, how cited content has changed over time, and the extent to which citing works have provided empirical evidence to test March and Simon’s propositions or have been critical of their assertions. Our investigation reveals disturbingly few attempts to empirically validate the assertions made in Organizations. Overall, we provide a critical reflection on how well subsequent scholarship fulfils the aims and promise heralded by this masterpiece.

Date: 2019
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