Intentional Forgetting in Organizations: The Importance of Eliminating Retrieval Cues for Implementing New Routines
Frontiers in Psychology
To cope with the already large, and ever increasing, amount of information stored in organizational memory, "forgetting," as an important human memory process, might be transferred to the organizational context. Especially in intentionally planned change processes (e.g., change management), forgetting is an important precondition to impede the recall of obsolete routines and adapt to new strategic objectives accompanied by new organizational routines. We first comprehensively review the
... re on the need for organizational forgetting and particularly on accidental vs. intentional forgetting. We discuss the current state of the art of theory and empirical evidence on forgetting from cognitive psychology in order to infer mechanisms applicable to the organizational context. In this respect, we emphasize retrieval theories and the relevance of retrieval cues important for forgetting. Subsequently, we transfer the empirical evidence that the elimination of retrieval cues leads to faster forgetting to the forgetting of organizational routines, as routines are part of organizational memory. We then propose a classification of cues (context, sensory, business process-related cues) that are relevant in the forgetting of routines, and discuss a meta-cue called the "situational strength" cue, which is relevant if cues of an old and a new routine are present simultaneously. Based on the classification as business process-related cues (information, team, task, object cues), we propose mechanisms to accelerate forgetting by eliminating specific cues based on the empirical and theoretical state of the art. We conclude that in intentional organizational change processes, the elimination of cues to accelerate forgetting should be used in change management practices.