Affiliated Organization

University of Amsterdam, Netherlands


The purpose of this paper is to provide a rigorous treatment of organizational learning as anevolutionary process. The paper is motivated by the believe that the notion of ‘generalized Darwinism’offers a meta-theory that can draw together the diverse theoretical perspectives that comprise theextensive literature on the selection and adaptation of organizations. We clarify the notion ofgeneralized Darwinism, and show that it provides a theoretical framework that can accommodateadaptation, selection and learning processes. This is done in three steps. First, we specify the generalnature of a Darwinian explanation. Secondly, we demonstrate that learning can be understood as aDarwinian process. Thirdly, we show how the resulting theoretical framework can be applied to bothorganizational selection and adaptation. We discuss the implications of this view of organizationallearning and conclude that the explanatory logic of generalized Darwinism demonstrates that theadaptation-selection debate is misconstrued. Adaptation and selection are simply differentmanifestations of the same Darwinian process.