Perceptual Filters

Perceptual filters not only make it very, very difficult for organizations to work their ways out of crises, they also strongly affect organizations’ behaviours in non-crisis situations. Consequently, perceptual filters comprise some of crises’ main roots inside organizations. Serious problems arise in large part because organizations themselves create them, and perceptual filters mold the problems that organizations create. For example, Kalmar Verkstad perceived its basic market to be the railways within Sweden. The firm never saw opportunities to sell rolling stock outside of Sweden, it never sent sales personnel to other countries, and so it never sold rolling stock outside of Sweden. The firm’s narrow concept of its market made purchases by Svenska Jamvag so important that the announced termination of those purchases threatened Kalmar Verkstad’s existence. The firm did not even consider foreign sales of rolling stock as a way to compensate for the loss of sales to Svenska Jamvag—not, that is, until it had spent nine years fruitlessly pursuing other possibilities. Then Kalmar Verkstad discovered substantial foreign markets that had probably been there all along.

(Starbuck, 1982:6)

Starbuck, W. 1982. Congealing Oil: Inventing Ideologies to justify acting ideologies out. Journal of Management Studies, Vol. 19, (1), pp. 3-27.

 

see also Bounded Rationality , Cognitive LimitationsFraming

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