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Managing Organizational Forgetting

Companies often focus on creating organizational processes and structures that allow them to learn quickly. But recent research shows that organizations must also effectively manage how they forget. The authors present a new construct for companies to determine how best to remember the knowledge they should and forget the knowledge they shouldn't. According to them, forgetting can be categorized along two dimensions. The first differentiates between accidental and intentional forgetting. The former is most often associated with the loss of valuable knowledge, which thus reduces a company's competitiveness. Intentional forgetting, on the other hand, can benefit an organization by helping to rid it of knowledge that has been producing dysfunctional outcomes. The other dimension highlights the difference between knowledge that is entrenched versus new. The two dimensions form a matrix that categorizes the four types of organizational forgetting: 1. memory decay, 2. failure to capture, 3. unlearning and 4. avoiding bad habits. Each form is associated with a distinct set of processes and contexts that result in a specific set of challenges. As such, each of the four processes must be managed differently.

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