First Edition of Herbert Simon's classic Work Organizations; From the Library of Nobel Prize-winning economist John Harsyani

  • Organizations.



Item Number: 38022

New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1958.

First edition of this classic in management science. Octavo, original cloth. From the library of Nobel Prize-winning economist John Harsanyi, with his signature on the front free endpaper . ‘Outside the Carnegie group, we should like to acknowledge especially our many hours of fruitful work and discussion with Robert A. Dahl on the subject of influence measurement, and the help and guidance that John C. Harsanyi provided for our treatment of the relation between game theory and other theories of conflict’ (p. vi). ‘Simon was attracted to the exciting intellectual environment emerging at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. After moving to Carnegie in 1949, Simon stayed there for more than five decades. At Carnegie, Simon collaborated on work that established the field of organization theory. The founding work was a major study done with James G. March, published as Organizations. The book continued the argument that decision makers are not able to act in an objectively rational manner; rather, they are constrained by both cognitive and external limitations. So, instead of assuming that each decision maker scans all possible alternatives and chooses the one that maximizes expected utility, Simon argued that decision makers instead use ‘satisficing’ as a criterion for making decisions; they choose the first alternative that looks ‘good enough.’ March and Simon wrote in Organizations, ‘Most human decision making, whether individual or organizational, is concerned with the discovery and selection of satisfactory alternatives; only in exceptional cases is it concerned with the discovery and selection of optimal alternatives.’ . . . One of Simon’s insights was that the observed complexity of human behavior arose from simple and general underlying mechanisms that were applied to a complex task environment. Simon illustrated this with his famous metaphor of ‘the ant on the beach.’ The ant’s goal is to reach some distant food. While the ant’s path to the food seems very complex, twisting and turning, most of the apparent complexity is due to the grains of sand to be traversed. The complexity of the environment, rather than the complexity of mechanism within the decision maker, gives rise to the observed behavior. ‘In solving problems,’ March and Simon wrote, ‘human thinking is governed by programs that organize myriads of simple information processes – or symbolic manipulating processes if you like – into orderly, complex, sequences that are responsive to and adaptive to the task environment and the clues that are extracted from that environment as the sequences unfold’ ‘ (Mie Augier & Edward Feigenbaum, ‘Herbert A. Simon: 15 June 1916 – 9 February 2001’, Biographical Memoirs, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 147, No. 2, June 2003, pp. 196-7). Fine in a near fine dust jacket. Rare and desirable with a noted provenance.

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