Beyond Penrose: A Cognitive Theory of the Firm

B. Nooteboom

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This paper uses a cognitive theory of firms and organizations, with a focus on learning and innovation.Here, cognition is a wide notion, including value judgments and corresponding feelings and emotions.This paper focuses on the relation between that cognitive theory and Penrose's theory of the growth of the firm.As in Penrose's work, the focus is on learning, rather than on efficient utilization of resources or appropriation of returns from them.Also as in Penrose, the underlying view of cognition is a constructivist one, according to which people with different experience view the world differently.So far, the paper is consistent with Penrose.However, it also adopts and further develops some of the criticism of her views, concerning the role of other human resources than managers in organizational learning, problems of conflicts of interest and governance within the firm, dynamic capabilities for developing new capabilities, and, above all, the alternative of collaboration between firms, for learning and innovation, in the combination of capabilities between rather than within the firm.In particular, it argues that, in contrast with Penrose, there are limits to firm size.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationTilburg
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Publication series

NameCentER Discussion Paper


  • theory of the firm
  • Penrose
  • knowledge
  • learning
  • innovation
  • dynamic capabilities
  • firm size
  • growth of the firm


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