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Routines, genes and program-based behaviour

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  • Jack Vromen

Abstract

It is argued that the ‘routines as genes’ analogy is misleading in several respects. Neither genes nor routines program behaviour, if this is taken to involve, first, that they determine behaviour and, second, that they do so in a way that excludes conscious, deliberate choice. On a proper understanding of ‘gene’ and ‘routine’, knowledge of genes and routines falls far short of predicting behaviour. Furthermore, conscious, deliberate choice is not ruled out when genes or routines are operating. There is a sense in which it can be maintained that genes are (or act as) programs and that individual behaviour is based on them. Such programs might display considerable stability, but their causal impact on behaviour is so remote and indirect that knowing them has little predictive power. It might be possible to identify programs also at levels of organization higher than that of genes that have greater predictive power, but such programs are likely to be unstable over time. On a non-inflationary understanding of ‘routines’, individual organization members can be viewed as programs on which the smooth functioning of routines is based. This is a far cry from the claim that routines determine firm behaviour, let alone from the claim that they are key success variables in explaining how well (in terms of profitability) firms perform.

Suggested Citation

  • Jack Vromen, 2004. "Routines, genes and program-based behaviour," Papers on Economics and Evolution 2004-20, Philipps University Marburg, Department of Geography.
  • Handle: RePEc:esi:evopap:2004-20
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Cohen, Michael D, et al, 1996. "Routines and Other Recurring Action Patterns of Organizations: Contemporary Research Issues," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 5(3), pages 653-698.
    2. Siegfried Berninghaus & Werner Güth & Hartmut Kliemt, 2003. "From teleology to evolution," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 13(4), pages 385-410, October.
    3. Foster, John, 1997. "The analytical foundations of evolutionary economics: From biological analogy to economic self-organization," Structural Change and Economic Dynamics, Elsevier, vol. 8(4), pages 427-451, October.
    4. Michael D. Cohen & Paul Bacdayan, 1994. "Organizational Routines Are Stored as Procedural Memory: Evidence from a Laboratory Study," Organization Science, INFORMS, vol. 5(4), pages 554-568, November.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Routines; Genes; Program-based behaviour; Proximate causes of individual and firm behaviour;

    JEL classification:

    • A12 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Other Disciplines
    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology
    • B52 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Current Heterodox Approaches - - - Historical; Institutional; Evolutionary
    • D21 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Firm Behavior: Theory
    • D23 - Microeconomics - - Production and Organizations - - - Organizational Behavior; Transaction Costs; Property Rights

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