Publication 6432

Breite R. & U. Koskinen K. (2014) Supply chain as an autopoietic learning system. Supply Chain Management 19(1): 10–16.
Purpose: This paper seeks to present a comprehensive overview of the supply chain as an autopoietic system. The new autopoietic approach suggests a transition from traditional cognitivist epistemology to the theory of learning as a creational matter, and this type of thinking can potentially shed light on the role of knowledge creation as a part of supply chain management. Design/methodology/approach – The paper is structured as follows: the first section describes the theoretical background of the concept of knowledge management in the supply chain. After that, the paper examines the general systems theory and the role of an autopoietic system within it. Then the paper addresses autopoietic epistemology. In particular, the notions of knowledge, learning, and knowledge flows are described so that the focus is on the context of the supply chain and supply chain management at operational level. Findings: The supplier’s, customer’s, and firm’s own organization and parts of the organization have autonomy system memories, which ultimately formulate how the intended development ideas are in fact realized and how they are adopted by the organization. Supply chain managers should take into account the fact that the routines and norms of the node are part of the system that are not controlled from outside. Instead, the system can modify its objectives internally as part of its autonomous operation, which should be taken into consideration in the knowledge sharing process. Originality/value – The description of a supply chain as an autopoietic knowledge system is a new way to examine knowledge sharing in a supply chain.
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