Two Johan P. Olsen publications cited more than 10 000 times

Yet another publication by ARENA founder Johan P. Olsen has now surpassed 10 000 citations, according to Google Scholar. 

Professor Emeritus at ARENA, Johan P. Olsen, is one of Norway's most-cited social scientists. 

Johan P. Olsen is one of the most cited social scientists in Norway. His 1989 book written with James G. March, Rediscovering Institutions, has almost 11 000 citations on Google Scholar. The article ‘A Garbage Can Model of Organizational Choice’, written with March and Michael D. Cohen in 1972, has now more than 10 000 citations. This makes Olsen one of the very few Norwegian social scientists, if not the only, with two publications cited more than 10 000 times.

Olsen was a young visiting scholar at the University of California, Irvine, when March, Cohen, and he started working on the article that introduced the so-called garbage can model. Olsen's co-authors visited the University of Bergen the following year (1970-71), and the article was published in 1972. It has since become a canonical text in organisational theory. It introduced a theoretical framework where problems, solutions and decision-makers were seen as disconnected streams. This was a novel approach at the time and has influenced generations of scholars. 

garbage can models
The garbage-can model has inspired generations of scholars – and hundreds of PowerPoint slides.

Rediscovering Institutions was a significant contribution to the so-called new institutionalism in political science. The book introduced the term ‘logic of appropriateness’, a concept that has proved influential well beyond organisational theory. As with the garbage-can model, a key point in the book is the idea that actors are not utility-maximising and perfectly rational. The book instead emphasises the concept of ‘bounded rationality’. People do not always act out of pure self-interest, they are also motivated by notions of, for instance, self-respect and decency. Decisions are in part determined by the context they are made within.

To be sure, citations are not all that matters. Yet the numbers reflect the massive influence these two publications have exerted on organizational theory and beyond.

By Trym Nohr Fjørtoft
Published Aug. 14, 2017 12:19 PM - Last modified Sep. 7, 2021 10:38 AM