Conceptualizing Change in Organizational Cognition

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Purpose: Secchi and Cowley (2016, 2018) propose a Radical approach to Organizational Cognition (ROC) as a way of studying cognitive processes in organizations. What distinguishes ROC from the established research on Organizational Cognition is that it remains faithful to radical, anti-representationalist principles of contemporary cognitive science. However, it is imperative for proponents of ROC to legitimize their approach by considering how it differs from the established research approach of Distributed Cognition (DCog). DCog is a potential contender to ROC in that it not only counters classical approaches to cognition but also provides valuable insights into cognition in organizational settings. Design/methodology/approach: The paper adopts a conceptual/theoretical approach that expands Secchi and Cowley's introduction of ROC. Findings: The paper shows that DCog research presupposes a task-specification requirement, which entails that cognitive tasks are well-defined. Consequently, DCog research neglects cases of organizational becoming where tasks cannot be clearly demarcated for the or are well-known to the organization. This is the case with the introduction of novel tasks or technical devices. Moreover, the paper elaborates on ROC's 3M model by linking it with insights from the literature on organizational change. Thus, it explores how organizing can be explored as an emergent phenomenon that involves micro, meso and macro domain dynamics, which are shaped by synoptic and performative changes. Originality/value: The present paper explores new grounds for ROC by not only expanding on its core model but also showing its potential for informing organizational theory and radical cognitive science research.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Organization Theory and Behavior
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)213-228
Publication statusPublished - 16. Nov 2021


  • 4E cognition
  • Distributed cognition
  • Radical organizational cognition
  • Synoptic and performative change


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