Reinterpreting the Learning Organisation

Stewart, Deb (2001) Reinterpreting the Learning Organisation. Working Paper. Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia.


The concept of the Learning Organisation (LO) has gone through many permutations in recent times in terms of its theoretical and practical development. Some theorists have used the LO term interchangeably with Organisational Learning (OL) while others have drawn distinctions between the two. There is little consensus about what a LO organisation might look like and there seems little agreement on the relationship between individual learning and collective learning in organisations and how one translates into the other. This paper initially provides a cursory glimpse at the current LO literature in the context of learning and OL and in particular the theoretical tensions existing between these concepts. After establishing the centrality of metaphors to our understanding of organisations, the LO is treated as a metaphor in order to explore the possibilities for its re-interpretation. There is recognition in the paper that this metaphorical development has not extended to the view that it is because we use narratives to portray the world that we employ metaphors even though these may be only partial, to assist in our understanding of organisations. This paper establishes the centrality of narrative to all human endeavours and that every organisational aspect is anchored in narratives. The LO is holistically reinterpreted using narrative theory. What also appears to have been left unattended in the consideration of the LO is the issue of power in determining what learning takes place in organisations. The insights of Pierre Bourdieu, a sociologist, contribute to our understanding about the operation of power in organisations generally and the LO specifically. Not only will the use of metaphor, narrative and social theory enhance our thinking about the LO conceptually, but it will open up practical possibilities for practitioners and consultants alike.

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Item type Monograph (Working Paper)
Subjects Historical > RFCD Classification > 350000 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services
Historical > FOR Classification > 1503 Business and Management
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > School of Management and Information Systems
Keywords learning organisation; collective learning
Citations in Scopus 45 - View on Scopus
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