The significance of routines in modern, learning, innovating economies is widely appreciated. Routines are vital to all organizations. Hence it is important to understand both how they can be built and how they can be changed. Such an appreciation is important, for analyzing how the business world works, for understanding how knowledge is retained and transferred, for the development of business strategy, and for the creation of policies to encourage more beneficial business practices. Detailed empirical investigation is essential in this regard, but detailed taxonomic studies based on empirical evidence are relatively rare. One reason why empirical investigations have so far remained rather limited is that the conceptual specification of a routine remains hazy. Greater conceptual precision is a vital precondition of fruitful empirical enquiry. The aim of this essay is help refine and define the concept of the routine, by citing relevant insights from philosophy, social theory and psychology, and by focusing on some milestone contributions in this area. The paper is divided into four sections. The first section addresses the analogous and component concept of habit, with a view to making a distinction between habits and routines. The second section explores the metaphor of routines as genes and argues that routines must be treated as capacities or dispositions, rather than behaviours. The third section considers the mechanics of routine persistence and replication in more detail, by briefly discussing some important theoretical and empirical studies in the area. The fourth section concludes the essay.  Thanks are due to Markus Becker for useful comments on an earlier version of this essay.
|Business School Working Papers
|University of Hertfordshire