Several problems present themselves when discussing the concept of obsolescence in relation to human behaviour within organisations. Most definitions of ‘obsolescence’ in fact refer to evaluations of inanimate physical phenomena within a dynamic context, not to human behaviour as such. Thus ‘obsolescent’ is often defined as ‘going out of date’, ‘falling into disuse’, or in accountants' terminology, as part of the process of calculating depreciation, involving the assessment of the ‘inadequacy of an asset relative to newer models’. Yet these ‘definitions’ beg the question. When is a machine (or an operative or manager) ‘out of date’, when is any asset, human or otherwise, ‘inadequate’ as compared to something ‘newer’ and where is the dividing line between ‘new’ and ‘old’ to be placed? These questions suggest that to define what we mean by ‘obsolescent’ in relation to any phenomenon, involves essentially a process of evaluation in the light of selected criteria in some particular context.
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