Associative Patterning: The Unconscious Life of an Organization

Associative Patterning: The Unconscious Life of an Organization

David Bennet (Mountain Quest Institute, USA) and Alex Bennet (Mountain Quest Institute, USA)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 24
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-540-5.ch014
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This chapter begins with a brief discussion of the basic concepts related to the unconscious life of an organization, and then addresses specific aspects of knowledge, learning, and memory, developing a language and framework for comprehending their application to organizations. Knowledge is addressed in terms of an information part and a proceeding part. Tacit knowledge is divided into embodied, intuitive, affective, and spiritual parts, with each of these aspects carried over to corresponding descriptions of memory. Organizational memory is then considered in light of a rapidly changing, uncertain environment. It is forwarded that organizational sustainability in an uncertain world requires a dynamic and responsive organizational memory. This highlights the challenge of keeping tacit memory updated as experienced personnel retire. Ideas and actions are briefly suggested to enhance and sustain organizational memory.
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Every decision made every day in an organization is a guess about the future based on past, present and anticipated activities in relationship with each other. In the brain of the decision-maker, thoughts are represented by patterns of neuronal firings, their synaptic connections and the strengths between the synaptic spaces. A single thought might be represented in the brain by a network of a million neurons, with each neuron connected to 10,000 other neurons (Ratey, 2001). A decision is the result of recursive interactions between external information and internal information of relevance to the problem at hand (the process of associative patterning) (Bennet & Bennet, 2006; Byrnes, 2001; Stonier, 1997). The intermixing of these sets of information (patterns) creates new neural patterns that represent understanding, meaning, and the anticipation of the consequences of actions, in other words, knowledge. Thus associative patterning is the way the brain/mind creates knowledge.

For purposes of this chapter, the mind represents the patterns created by the neurons in the brain. A useful analogy is to consider that the mind is to the brain as the waves on the ocean are to the water in the ocean, that is, patterns to particles. From the objective perspective, electrical impulses flow down neuronal axons and impact other neurons through networks of connections. Since we are not able to see our own mind patterns, we interpret them as thoughts, ideas, visions, feelings, etc., some of which are stored as memory. For the sake of simplicity, we will not address the role of electro-chemical processes.

It is well-established that the storage and retrieval of memories lie in the structure, association and activities of neurons. Giorgio Ascoli, head of the Computational Neuroanatomy Group at the Krasnow Institute for Advance Study, says:

... the principal axiom of modern neuroscience: the key substrate for all the functions performed by nervous systems, from regulation of vital states, reflexes, and motor control, to the storage and retrieval of memories and appreciation of artistic beauty, lies not in some ‘magic’ ingredient, but rather in the structure and assembly of neurons [Emphasis added]. (Ascoli, 2002, p. 3)

Although there is much that is not understood about the mind/brain from a scientific viewpoint, the explosion of new technology coupled with neuroscience research is providing significant insights into the operation of the mind/brain/body. When considering learning, knowledge, and tacit, implicit and explicit memory, neuronal patterns offer a useful perspective. Taking a multidiscipline approach, this chapter will build an understanding of knowledge and organizational memory through the lens of neuroscience, evolutionary biology, organizational development and knowledge management. Each of these domains offers ideas, perspectives and insights that help build a holistic understanding of the nature, challenges, relationships and efficacy of memory, learning and knowledge concepts. In taking this approach, we consider organizations as living entities, representing entangled sets of individual minds interacting with historic and current patterns of information. If organizations have people, they also have neurons.

We begin with a brief discussion of some basic concepts related to the unconscious life of an organization. We then address specific aspects of knowledge, learning and memory, providing a language and framework for comprehending their application to organizations. Finally, equipped with the perspective needed to understand the focus of this chapter, we relate these aspects of knowledge to organizational memory and briefly suggest ideas and actions leaders can consider to enhance and sustain organizational memory.



As Tennessee Williams wrote in The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore, “Has it ever struck you ... that life is all memory, except for the one present moment that goes by you so quickly you hardly catch it going?” (Kandel, 2006, p. 281) Memory is everywhere, stored throughout neurons in the brain and other parts of the body: approximately 100 billion in the brain; 20,000 in the heart and 6,000 in the gut (Amen, 2005; Gershon, 1998; Kandel, 2006). Parts of the brain act as central control systems and operating posts to connect incoming and outgoing signals to the many different regions of the central nervous system, and no two patterns of this creative process are the same.

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Nick Bontis
John P. Girard
John P. Girard
Chapter 1
Peter Stoyko
This chapter describes how organizational culture is both a “vessel” for preserving organizational memory and a force that conditions the way... Sample PDF
Organizational Culture and the Management of Organizational Memory
Chapter 2
Nicholas N. Bowersox
Recent business practices over the past decade have been tainted with corporate restructuring strategies such as downsizing, reorganizations, and... Sample PDF
Downsizing and Building Organizational Memory: A Paradoxical Relationship between “Brain-Drain” and “Brain-Gain”
Chapter 3
Nicholas P. Robinson, Prescott C. Ensign
This chapter argues that a trusting corporate culture predicated on values that emphasize sharing and encourage interactions amongst stakeholders at... Sample PDF
Effective Stakeholder Knowledge Sharing for Effective Organizational Memory
Chapter 4
Jerry Westfall
This chapter discusses the revision of the SECI model originally based on Japanese organizational culture into a model based on American... Sample PDF
Revising the SECI Model for American Organizational Culture
Chapter 5
Parissa Haghirian
A growing interest in the various aspects of knowledge transfer within multinational corporations has been evidenced by a recent surge in empirical... Sample PDF
Knowledge Transfer within Multinational Corporations: An Intercultural Challenge
Chapter 6
Patrice Dunckley, Suzanne Roff-Wexler
This chapter provides perspective and practical techniques that individuals and organizations can use to maximize knowledge transfer efforts. It... Sample PDF
Valuing a Multiplicity of Views: How to Tap Informal Networks to See the (W)hole
Chapter 7
Haris Papoutsakis
This chapter explores the ways that Knowledge Sharing Networks support the flow of organizational knowledge within a firm. Based on the assumption... Sample PDF
Organizational Knowledge Sharing Networks
Chapter 8
Raul M. Abril, Ralf Müller
This chapter suggests established research approaches to capture and validate project lessons learned. Past research indicates that due to the... Sample PDF
Lessons Learned as Organizational Project Memories
Chapter 9
Jerry Westfall
This chapter discusses employee recall due to training presentations. Recall is an employee’s ability to remember what they knew or have learned via... Sample PDF
Will You Recall What You Knew?
Chapter 10
Maria de los Angeles Martin, Luis Olsina
With the aim to manage and retrieve the organizational knowledge, in the last years numerous proposals of models and tools for knowledge management... Sample PDF
Added Value of Ontologies for Modeling an Organizational Memory
Chapter 11
Juha Kettunen
This study analyses how strategic management is integrated with budgeting in the cities using the Balanced Scorecard approach, which provides a... Sample PDF
The Collective Process and Memory of Strategic Management
Chapter 12
Kimiz Dalkir
Research on how organizational memories can be created, preserved and made available for future reuse in NPOs is presented. An initial review of the... Sample PDF
Organizational Memory Challenges Faced by Non-Profit Organizations
Chapter 13
Susan G. McIntyre
The case study of the Chemical, Biological, Radiological-Nuclear, and Explosives (CBRNE) Research and Technology Initiative (CRTI), a Canadian... Sample PDF
Creating and Sustaining Meta Organizational Memory: A Case Study
Chapter 14
David Bennet, Alex Bennet
This chapter begins with a brief discussion of the basic concepts related to the unconscious life of an organization, and then addresses specific... Sample PDF
Associative Patterning: The Unconscious Life of an Organization
Chapter 15
Michael JD Sutton
This chapter introduces the research domain of knowledge management educational programs and issues associated with the preservation of knowledge... Sample PDF
A Manifesto for the Preservation of Organizational Memory Associated with the Emergence of Knowledge Management Educational Programs
Chapter 16
Marie-Hélène Abel
Learning can be considered an outcome associated with acquiring new competencies (Sicilia, 2005) and adding new knowledge. A competence is a way to... Sample PDF
An Organizational Memory Tool for E-Learning
Chapter 17
Sajjad M. Jasimuddin, N.A.D. Connell, Jonathan H. Klein
It is generally recognized that Walsh and Ungson (1991) “provided the first integrative framework for thinking about organizational memory”... Sample PDF
Understanding Organizational Memory
Chapter 18
Les Miller, Sree Nilakanta, Yunan Song, Lei Zhu, Ming Hua
Organizational memories play a significant role in knowledge management, but several challenges confront their use. Artifacts of OM are many and... Sample PDF
Managing Knowledge in Organizational Memory Using Topic Maps
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