Habit, Deliberation and Action: Strengthening the Microfoundations of Routines and Capabilities

Sidney Winter, Management, The Wharton School

Abstract: The proponents of the “microfoundations project” have advanced a number of criticisms of theories of organizational routines and capabilities. While the criticisms derive in part from philosophical or methodological premises that are open to serious question, and tend to ignore the empirical research on the subject, there remains a valid core concern about the foundational characterization of human nature and particularly about the relationship of the individual level of analysis to the organizational level. This paper makes the case that a suitable individual-level foundation can be found only in an account of individual psychology that gives due weight to habit and clearly distinguishes habit from deliberative decision making. Insight is drawn from the writings of John Dewey and from recent research in psychology.

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