Contested Concepts, Contested Experiences
Edited by Wilfred Dolfsma and Charlie Dannreuther
Chapter 6: Collective learning, knowledge articulation and routinization in the food industry: the case of the ISO 9002 quality standard
Nathalie Lazaric and Blandine Denis In the past few years the term ‘learning economy’ has caught the attention of many researchers (Lundvall and Foray, 1996, among others). This subject points to a fundamental transformation of the economy and, associated with that, a growth in the importance of learning within firms and the capitalist system as a whole. For firms, learning may be seen as an opportunity to adjust their know-how and to change their routines to meet the new and changing demands of a global economy. But a firm’s capacity to cope with these changes may differ drastically from one firm to the next. Indeed, the introduction of ISO norms in firms and the changes these necessitate, as they are international standards, are a good example of the pressures pushing firms to clarify and justify their own routines. ISO norms do not create firms in a particular industry that all resemble one another closely, like ‘clones’, but highlight the firms’ prior abilities and competencies. For ISO approval to be won, firms need to explicate and record how they function. They may even do so to a degree of detail that they themselves prefer. However, in actual practice, such explication and recording give rise to sometimes profound restructuring in the firms involved. Both internal processes may change, and relations of a firm with suppliers and clients may change. As it will be seen below, the social capital of a firm and its employees as well as its organizational context play a...
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