Schemas are a central concept in strategy and organization theory. Yet, despite the importance of schemas, little is known about how they emerge. Our in-depth historical analysis of how groups in the life insurance industry developed their schema for the computer from 1945-1975 addresses this gap. We identify three key processes–assimilation, deconstruction, and unitization–that collectively explain and resolve an inherent tension related to schema emergence: how to make the unfamiliar familiar but conceptually distinct. We also find that each process relates to analogical transfer, but in a more pluralistic and dynamic way than the existing literature describes. Broadly, these findings have important implications for organizational change and managerial cognition.
Bingham, C. B., & Kahl, S. J. (2013). The process of schema emergence: Assimilation, deconstruction, unitization and the plurality of analogies. Academy of Management Journal, 56(1), 14-34. doi:10.5465/amj.2010.0723