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Handbook of Organizational Learning and Knowledge Management, Second Edition by MARJORIE A. LYLES, MARK EASTERBY-SMITH

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What Research into Fads and Fashions Says About TLO’s Success

TLO’s history illustrates the rise in popularity and dissemination of a body of ideas, a particular way of thinking. Research about fads and fashions can make some interpretations of TLO’s history more plausible and others less plausible. However, the history of TLO differs from most of the fads and fashions that researchers have studied. This means that much of the prior research is only indirectly relevant and it suggests some opportunities for future research.

The terms fad and fashion encompass a wide variety of social phenomena. They may spread across large populations of people or organizations, or they may occur within individual organizations or small subpopulations. Many business techniques have had very short life cycles (Brandes, 1976; Carson et al., 2000). By contrast, Aristotle’s ideas dominated Western thinking about physics for over two millennia. As well, fads and fashions produce a wide variety of consequences, some beneficial and some harmful, some short term and others long term. Indeed, fads and fashions are kinds of social change, and change can be positive or negative, rapid or slow. Abrahamson and Rosenkopf (1993, 1997) characterized fads as forms of social change that incorporate contagion, and fashions as forms of social change in which followers imitate fashion setters.

It is helpful to consider fads and fashions as commodities bought and sold in markets. Some people and organizations act as ...

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