James P. Walsh

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James Patrick Walsh (born 1953) is an American organizational theorist, and professor of Business Administration at the University of Michigan, noted for his contributions in the field of organizational memory and organizational learning.


  • I’m fascinated by cross-level relationships: the influences between and among individuals, organizations, and society really engage me. And as romantic as it may sound, I think we are all called to try to leave the world a better place. The desire to better understand these cross-level relationships, done with a clear eye on enhancing our well-being, animates nearly everything I do.

"Organizational memory," 1991[edit]

James P. Walsh and Gerardo Rivera Ungson. "Organizational memory." Academy of management review 16.1 (1991): 57-91.

  • The extant representations of the concept of organizational memory are fragmented and underdeveloped. In developing a more coherent theory, we address possible concerns about anthropomorphism; define organizational memory and elaborate on its structure; and discuss the processes of information acquisition, retention, and retrieval. Next, these processes undergird a discussion of how organizational memory can be used, misused, or abused in the management of organizations.
    • p. 57
  • The construct of Organizational Memory is composed of the structure of its retention facility, the information contained in it, the processes of information acquisition and retrieval, and its consequential effects. In its most basic sense, organizational memory refers to stored information from an organization's history that can be brought to bear on present decisions. This information is stored as a consequence of implementing decisions to which they refer, by individual recollections, and through shared interpretations.
    • p. 61
  • [ Organizational culture comprises the way of] thinking and feeling about problems that is transmitted to members in the organization.
    • p. 63
  • Despite the general use of the term organizational memory, it is not clear that we have understood the concept or its implications for the management of organizations. To date, a myriad of unexamined conjectures has defined a concept that has even served as a basis for prescriptive management advice.
    • p. 84-85, as cited in: Ackerman, Mark S., and Christine Halverson. "Considering an organization's memory." Proceedings of the 1998 ACM conference on Computer supported cooperative work. 1998. p.

Misery loves companies: Rethinking social initiatives by business, 2003[edit]

Margolis, Joshua D. and James P. Walsh. "Misery loves companies: Rethinking social initiatives by business." Administrative science quarterly 48.2 (2003): 268-305.

  • Looking at the business corporation through something other than the eyes of its equity holders has inspired great efforts to translate that intuitive appeal into a theory... The promise of stakeholder theory to offer a cogent alternative to the economic account of the firm, however, is impeded by a set of assumptions designed to accommodate economic considerations.
    • p. 279, partly cited in: Enyinna, Okechukwu. "Is stakeholder theory really ethical?." African Journal of Business Ethics 7.2 (2013).
  • A preoccupation with instrumental consequences renders a theory that accommodates economic premises yet sidesteps the underlying tensions between the social and economic imperatives that confront organisations. Such a theory risks omitting the pressing descriptive and normative questions raised by these tensions, which, when explored, might hold great promise for a new theory and even for addressing practical management challenges.
    • p. 280 as cited in: Enyinna, Okechukwu. "Is stakeholder theory really ethical?." African Journal of Business Ethics 7.2 (2013).

Quotes about James P. Walsh[edit]

  • Organizational memory is fundamentally important to organizational learning. The seminal work on organizational memory is Walsh and Ungson’s article published in the Academy of Management Review in 1991
    • Anderson, Marc H., and Peter YT Sun. "What have scholars retrieved from Walsh and Ungson (1991)? A citation context study." Management Learning (2010).

External links[edit]

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