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The Diffusion of Management Innovations: The Possibilities and Limitations of Memetics


Joseph O’Mahoney, Cardiff Business School, University of Cardiff, Cardiff, Wales, UK (o'


abstract  This paper applies a theory of memetics to help explain the diffusion of management innovations as a dynamic evolutionary process. Existing analyses of diffusion frequently note the variation, selection or replication of management innovations, yet few have linked these together with the common observation that some innovations seem to ‘evolve’. This paper draws on qualitative evidence from two case-studies of BPR implementation to illustrate that the replication, selection and variation of management innovations can form evolutionary algorithms (‘memes’) which support diffusion processes, and, in doing so, clarifies the ways in which innovations contribute to their own replication and explains how the high ‘failure’ rates associated with BPR can sometimes improve its chances of reproduction.