Institutional memory

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Institutional memory is a collective set of facts, concepts, experiences and knowledge held by a group of people.


Institutional memory has been defined as "the stored knowledge within the organization."[1]

Institutional memory requires the ongoing transmission of these memories between members of this group. Elements of institutional memory may be found in corporations, professional groups, government bodies, religious groups, academic collaborations, and by extension in entire cultures. There are different ideas about how institutional memory is transferred, whether it is between people or through written sources[2].

Institutional memory may be encouraged to preserve an ideology or way of work in such a group. Conversely, institutional memory may be ingrained to the point that it becomes hard to challenge if something is found to contradict that which was previously thought to have been correct. Institutional memory may have influence on organizational identity, choice of individuals, and actions of the individuals interacting with the institution.

Institutional knowledge[edit]

Institutional knowledge is gained by organizations translating historical data into useful knowledge and wisdom. Memory depends upon the preservation of data and also the analytical skills necessary for its effective use within the organization.

Religion is one of the significant institutional forces acting on the collective memory attributed to humanity. Alternatively, the evolution of ideas in Marxist theory, is that the mechanism whereby knowledge and wisdom are passed down through the generations is subject to economic determinism. In all instances, social systems, cultures, and organizations have an interest in controlling and using institutional memories.

Organizational structure determines the training requirements and expectations of behaviour associated with various roles. This is part of the implicit institutional knowledge. Progress to higher echelons requires assimilation of this, and when outsiders enter at a high level, effectiveness tends to deteriorate if this morale is unjustly ignored.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gibbons, Deborah E. (2007-01-01). Communicable Crises: Prevention, Response, and Recovery in the Global Arena. IAP. ISBN 9781593116071.
  2. ^ Corbett, Jack; Grube, Dennis C.; Lovell, Heather; Scott, Rodney (2018-02-12). "Singular memory or institutional memories? Toward a dynamic approach". Governance. doi:10.1111/gove.12340. ISSN 0952-1895.