Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies Program on Energy and Sustainable Development Stanford University


Corporations as Distributed Cognitive Systems and their Governance  
Shorenstein APARC, SPRIE Seminar

Date and Time
May 15, 2009
3:00 PM - 4:30 PM

RSVP Required by 5PM May 13

Masahiko Aoki - Stanford University

This event is presented in conjunction with the Japan Society of Northern California.

About the talk

Orthodox economic theory views cognition as taking place inside the skull and skin of individuals. For example, the contract theory of the firm is based on such premise. However, one of essential features of corporate firms can be seen as systems of group-level, distributed cognition.

From this perspective, Aoki identifies five generic types of organizational architecture in terms of three-way relationships between management's and employees' cognitive assets and physical tools of group-level cognition (e.g., computers, file, machines, etc.). He will discuss a variety of governance structures complementary to each of them. It is hoped that in this way, an essential aspect of a competitive form of architectural-governance evolving in global markets beyond national characteristics may be identified.

Aoki will conclude with a suggestion of information roles of equity markets subtly different from what the orthodox finance-property rights theory indicates.

About the speaker

Masahiko Aoki is the Henri and Tomoye Takahashi Professor Emeritus of Japanese Studies in the Economics Department, and senior fellow of Stanford Institute of Economic Policy Research (SIEPR) and Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI) at Stanford University. He is a theoretical and applied economist with a strong interest in institutional and comparative issues. His preferred field covers the theory of institution, corporate governance, the Japanese and Chinese economies, and modularity.

Aoki's most recent book, Toward a Comparative Institutional Analysis, was published in 2001 by MIT Press. This work develops a conceptual and analytical framework for integrating comparative studies of institutions in economics and other social sciences based on game-theoretic apparatus. His research has been also published in the leading journals in economics, including the American Economic Review, Econometrica, the Quarterly Journal of Economics, Review of Economic Studies, the Journal of Economic Literature, and Industrial and Corporate Change.

Aoki is president of the International Economic Association (2005-2008) and a former president of the Japanese Economic Association. He is a fellow of the Econometric Society and the founding editor of the Journal of Japanese and International Economies, as well as an associate editor and member of the scientific advisory committees for various professional journals. He was awarded the Japan Academy Prize in 1990, and in 1998 he took the 6th International Schumpeter Prize. Between 2001 and 2004, Aoki served as the President and Chief Research Officer (CRO) of the Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI), an independent administrative institution specializing in public policy research in Japan.

Aoki graduated from the University of Tokyo with a BA and an MA in economics and earned a PhD in economics from the University of Minnesota in 1967. He was formerly an assistant professor at Stanford University and Harvard University and served as both an associate and full professor at the University of Kyoto before re-joining the Stanford faculty in 1984 after sixteen years of absence. He became professor emeritus in 2004 to concentrate on research as well as be engaged in various international activities.

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George Krompacky