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Evolution, Exchange and Coordination: Implications for Organizational Communication
Unformatted Document Text:  Evolution, Exchange and Coordination 14 (Wright, 2000). As a resource, this information about innovations would have constituted “an ideal trade good because its cost to the giver – a few seconds of breath – is miniscule compared to the benefit to the recipient” (Pinker, 1997, p. 403). Naturally, those memes best able to lubricate exchange processes and improve the human condition would, over time have won out over lesser ideas. In turn, aided by ever- more sophisticated communication and transportation technologies, innovations would have spread across greater and greater geographic distances (Wright, 2000). From an evolutionary perspective then, it can be said that one of the functions of culture is to generate mechanisms for the effective realization of nonzero sum gains for human collectives. In creating common knowledge of valued resources, and models for the expedient coordination of their exchange, culture binds humans together for concerted action. Ultimately, language and communication serve as culture’s tool in the articulation and transmission of both said resources and exchange coordination mechanisms. Reciprocity and Coordination in Organizations This review of human adaptations and their by-products is by no means exhaustive (e.g., see Barkow, Cosmides & Tooby, 1992 for review of documented designs). Yet, given the supportive arguments that follow, they should serve to illustrate the extent to which our everyday communicative practices in organizations can be traced to our evolutionary past. To date, communication scholars have not been particularly mindful of the impact that this body of work can have on this discipline’s theorizing about interpersonal, group and organizational dynamics. At best, we see merely fleeting recognition of the importance of our fundamental natures in shaping how we think and communicate. For instance, over two decades ago, Cappella (1995) alerted us to the centrality of reciprocity to all human cooperation, and hinted at its evolutionary origins. While, no doubt well intentioned, a more recent call for our attention to “the ways in which biological factors may affect communication” (Eisenberg, 2001. p. 545), has been somewhat disappointing. Specifically, in recognizing that a more complex picture is emerging regarding the role of biology in human communication, Eisenberg (2001) fails to acknowledge the burgeoning body of evolutionary scholarship, and proposes instead that we investigate such topics as interaction between genes and personality mood development or the effect chemicals in the brain might have on levels of anxiety or depression. In the organizational sciences, we have seen we have begun to see glimpses of application. For instance, an EP perspective has been used to explain human motivations in organizations (Lawrence & Nohria, 2001); the origins of the organization’s social structure (Pierce & White, 1999); the connection between status and well-being (see Lawrence & Nohria’s review of the Whitehall studies); absenteeism,

Authors: Teboul, JC. Bruno. and Cole, Tim.
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Evolution, Exchange and Coordination
14
(Wright, 2000). As a resource, this information about innovations would have constituted “an ideal trade
good because its cost to the giver – a few seconds of breath – is miniscule compared to the benefit to the
recipient” (Pinker, 1997, p. 403). Naturally, those memes best able to lubricate exchange processes and
improve the human condition would, over time have won out over lesser ideas. In turn, aided by ever-
more sophisticated communication and transportation technologies, innovations would have spread across
greater and greater geographic distances (Wright, 2000).
From an evolutionary perspective then, it can be said that one of the functions of culture is to
generate mechanisms for the effective realization of nonzero sum gains for human collectives. In creating
common knowledge of valued resources, and models for the expedient coordination of their exchange,
culture binds humans together for concerted action. Ultimately, language and communication serve as
culture’s tool in the articulation and transmission of both said resources and exchange coordination
mechanisms.
Reciprocity and Coordination in Organizations
This review of human adaptations and their by-products is by no means exhaustive (e.g., see
Barkow, Cosmides & Tooby, 1992 for review of documented designs). Yet, given the supportive
arguments that follow, they should serve to illustrate the extent to which our everyday communicative
practices in organizations can be traced to our evolutionary past.
To date, communication scholars have not been particularly mindful of the impact that this body
of work can have on this discipline’s theorizing about interpersonal, group and organizational dynamics.
At best, we see merely fleeting recognition of the importance of our fundamental natures in shaping how
we think and communicate. For instance, over two decades ago, Cappella (1995) alerted us to the
centrality of reciprocity to all human cooperation, and hinted at its evolutionary origins. While, no doubt
well intentioned, a more recent call for our attention to “the ways in which biological factors may affect
communication” (Eisenberg, 2001. p. 545), has been somewhat disappointing. Specifically, in
recognizing that a more complex picture is emerging regarding the role of biology in human
communication, Eisenberg (2001) fails to acknowledge the burgeoning body of evolutionary scholarship,
and proposes instead that we investigate such topics as interaction between genes and personality mood
development or the effect chemicals in the brain might have on levels of anxiety or depression.
In the organizational sciences, we have seen we have begun to see glimpses of application. For
instance, an EP perspective has been used to explain human motivations in organizations (Lawrence &
Nohria, 2001); the origins of the organization’s social structure (Pierce & White, 1999); the connection
between status and well-being (see Lawrence & Nohria’s review of the Whitehall studies); absenteeism,


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