The Ambiguities of Experience

Book cover for The Ambiguities of Experience

The Ambiguities of Experience

Cornell University Press, 2010

“Experience may be the best teacher, but it is not a particularly good teacher,” Stanford GSB Professor James March says in his new book, The Ambiguities of Experience. Whether experience is the best teacher, or the teacher of fools, makes March reflect on the unexpected problems organizations (and the individuals in them) face when they rely on experience to adapt, improve, and survive.

In The Ambiguities of Experience, March asks a deceptively simple question: What is, or should be, the role of experience in creating intelligence, particularly in organizations? Folk wisdom both trumpets the significance of experience and warns of its inadequacies. On one hand, experience is described as the best teacher. On the other hand, experience is described as the teacher of fools, of those unable or unwilling to learn from accumulated knowledge or the teaching of experts. The disagreement between those folk aphorisms reflects profound questions about the human pursuit of intelligence through learning from experience that have long confronted philosophers and social scientists. This book considers the unexpected problems organizations (and the individuals in them) face when they rely on experience to adapt, improve, and survive.

Selected Editorial Reviews
James G. March's work creates a sense of being in a conversation with someone who persistently points to important things that somehow lie just outside of our ordinary awareness.
Anne Miner, Administrative Science Quarterly
March is to organization theory what Miles Davis was to jazz. . . . March's influence, unlike that of any of his peers, is not limited to any possible subset of the social science disciplines; it is pervasive.
John Padgett, Contemporary Sociology
Those of us who cherish the dialectical analysis and the understanding of organizational action it provides have the same feeling when reading March's writing as when watching a movie directed by the legendary Kurosawa; they leave us with a deeper understanding and with a desire to taste more.
Zur Shapira, New York University
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