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Max Boisot

British academic and educator

Max Henri Boisot (1943–2011) was a British organizational theorist and Professor of Strategic Management at the ESADE business school in Barcelona.

QuotesEdit

  • Knowledge management often generates theories that are too general or abstract to be easily testable. In some cases, simulation modeling can help. [WE have developed] an agent-based simulation model derived from a conceptual framework, the Information Space or I-Space and use it to explore the differences between a neoclassical and a Schumpeterian information environment.

Information Space, 1995Edit

Boisot, Max (1995), Information Space, Routledge, London

  • Data itself can be thought of as an energetic phenomenon that links us in our capacity as knowing subjects to an external physical world.
    • p. 22
  • The thinking that underpins strategic planning is a legacy of more stable times when the environment was changing sufficiently slowly for an effective corporate response to emerge from methodical organisational routines.
    • p. 33
  • Strategic intent describes a process of coping with turbulence through a direct, intuitive understanding of what is occurring in order to guide the work of a school. A turbulent environment cannot be tamed by rational analysis alone so that conventional strategic planning is deemed to be of little use. Yet it does not follow that a school's adaptive response must be left to a random distribution of lone individuals acting opportunistically and often in isolation as in a regime of intrapreneurship. Strategic intent relies on an intuitively formed pattern or gestalt — some would call it a vision — to give it unity and coherence
    • p. 36
  • Although in practice innovative coding is hard to disentangle from innovative theorizing, the latter, over time, has a far greater impact than the former on how we perceive and interpret the world.
    • p. 65
  • The production of information and its use in transactions both incur costs and are thus subject to economizing. In the 1970s, there occurred a revival of interest among economists in the economics of transaction, and Oliver Williamson in particular, building on the earlier work of Ronald Coase and John Commons, has explored the different institutional arrangements that govern transactional choices.
    • p. 235; As cited in: Ortiz, Rocio Rueda, Henrik Herlau, and Leif Bloch Rasmussen. ICT from the Bottom of the Pyramid: Design and/or De-Construction?. Springer US, 2006.
  • We shall also concern ourselves with the institutional order built up from transactions, but our focus will be less narrowly economic than the one adopted by Williamson. Like him, we shall argue that institutional structures aim partly at achieving transactional efficiencies and that where such efficiencies are effectively achieved they act somewhat like a magnetic field – a mathematician would call them ‘attractors’ – drawing the uncommitted transaction into a given institutional orbit. Yet in contrast to Williamson’s, our concept of transactions is underpinned by an explicit rather than an implicit theory of information production and exchange which yields a different way of classifying them as well as a distinctive approach to their governance. We find ourselves in consequence in the realm of political economy rather than of economics tout court.
    • p. 235; As cited in: Ortiz et al. (2006)
  • In spite of such limitations, the New Institutional Economics research programme, given its willingness to acknowledge the central role played by information in the economic process, constitutes a marked advance over what is on offer from the neoclassical orthodoxy. There, information retains the status of the luminiferous ether of classical physics before Einstein: a ubiquitous medium that admitted of a mechanical account of action at a distance and kept the world conveniently Newtonian.
    Institutional economics, however, needs a more explicit and dynamic theory of information flows if it is to make more than a dent in the neoclassical defences. Having established that there exists credible institutional alternatives to markets, it needs to show how information production and exchange underpins them all, shaping their internal evolution as well as how they collaborate and compete. In effect, what is needed is a theory of social learning that extends beyond the individual or the organization to encompass more complex institutional settings. Such as theory, I believe, is foreshadowed in Douglas North’s historical studies of institutions. It now needs further development.
    • p. 290; As cited in: Ortiz et al. (2006)

Knowledge Assets, 1998Edit

Boisot, Max H. Knowledge Assets: Securing Competitive Advantage in the Information Economy: Securing Competitive Advantage in the Information Economy. Oxford University Press, 1998.

  • Failure to properly conceptualize the nature of knowledge assets condemns firms.
    • p. 2
  • [Knowledge assets are] stocks of knowledge through which different value added services flow.
    • p. 3.; as cited in: Evans, M. M., and Natasha Ali. "Bridging knowledge management life cycle theory and practice." 2013.
  • Data is discrimination between physical states of things (black, white, etc.) that may convey or not convey information to an agent. Whether it does so or not depends on the agent's prior stock of knowledge.
    • p. 12
  • Information establishes a relation between things and agents.
    • p. 12
  • Knowledge is a property of agents predisposing them to act in particular circumstances.
    • p. 12
  • Following the lead given by new institutional economics, we shall take the transaction as our unit of analysis. For our purposes, a transaction can be thought of as any act of social exchange that depends on information flows for its accomplishment. Transactions can be as simple and brief as the purchase of a packet of cigarettes, or as complex as and extended as those which bind a Zen master to his disciples. Like institutional economists, we are interested in the relationship that can be established between different transactional characteristics and the phenomenon of institutionalization. Our use of the term transaction, however, will extend beyond that of institutional economics where the focus has tended to be primarily on transaction costs and efficiency considerations. These, to be sure, are relevant. But, as we shall see, they are not the whole story.
    • p. 124; As cited in: Ortiz et al. (2006)
  • At the level of firms, therefore, only those whose cultural repertoire gives them transactional capacity throughout the I-Space can summon and adequate learning response to any emerging gaps between technology and culture. Those operating from too narrow a cultural base in the space, however, must of necessity lose control of the SLC unless they can complement their limited cultural repertoire through carefully selected interfirm and intercultural collaborations – i.e. through an externalization of transactions that link them with agents located elsewhere in the space. However, they will then confront the same problems of integration that more culturally diverse firms encounter inside their organization when trying to coordinate the activities of different functions or businesses. There is no cheap grace.
    • p. 151; As cited in: Ortiz et al. (2006)
  • It makes sense to describe a core competence as a complex adaptive system, located in the lower regions of the I-Space between an ordered regime in which knowledge assets get frozen into technologies and a chaotic regime in which the stability necessary for effective organizational coordination and integration remains absent. Core competences, then, have their being in a region of the I-Space sandwiched between an excess of usable structure and a total lack of it. We hypothesize that the possession of a core competence is one measure of a firm’s ability to deal with complexity.
    • p. 205
  • Only firms that can handle a full SLC, together with the multiple cultures required to drive it, will be able to cope with the many and conflicting demands of a complex regime.
    • p. 205
  • To summarize, the production of information and its use in transactions both incur costs and are thus subject to economizing. In the 1970s, there occurred a revival of interest among economists in the economics of transaction, and Oliver Williamson in particular, building on the earlier work of Ronald Coase and John Commons, has explored the different institutional arrangements that govern transactional choices.
    • p. 235
  • We shall also concern ourselves with the institutional order built up from transactions, but our focus will be less narrowly economic than the one adopted by Williamson. Like him, we shall argue that institutional structures aim partly at achieving transactional efficiencies and that where such efficiencies are effectively achieved they act somewhat like a magnetic field – a mathematician would call them ‘attractors’ – drawing the uncommitted transaction into a given institutional orbit. Yet in contrast to Williamson’s, our concept of transactions is underpinned by an explicit rather than an implicit theory of information production and exchange which yields a different way of classifying them as well as a distinctive approach to their governance. We find ourselves in consequence in the realm of political economy rather than of economics tout court.
    • p. 235

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