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Handbook of Research on the Learning Organization

Handbook of Research on the Learning Organization

Adaptation and Context

Elgar original reference

Edited by Anders Örtenblad

This timely Handbook establishes the ‘contextualization’ of the learning organization idea as a research field. In contrast to much of the previous literature, which has approached the learning organization as a panacea that every organization could and should adopt, this major new Handbook puts the learning organization into context. It examines the relevance of the learning organization idea to organizations in various specific contexts, employing examples from a wide variety of cultures including China and Islamic nations, and from industries as diverse as the police force, care services for the elderly and family firms.

Chapter 20: Alternative learning organization

Shih-wei Hsu

Subjects: business and management, knowledge management, organisation studies, innovation and technology, knowledge management


In the area of the learning organization, the term ‘learning’ is usually considered as a desirable activity, for learning seems to bring about obvious positive change for an organization (Pedler et al. 1998). In this chapter, however, I start with a critical attitude that contradicts the positive image of learning. I take the position that learning can be a potentially harmful activity and that we need to be mindful of it. The aim of this chapter is to propose some alternative understandings of the learning organization. In particular, I shall try to ‘adapt’ the discourse of the learning organization to a different context, that is, the world that we live in, or, to borrow Martin Heidegger (1962 [1927]), ‘being-in-the-world’. The learning organization is, at its birth, a response to the requirements of the so-called knowledge society (Drucker 1993) and knowledge economy (Thurow 1999), proposed by theorists who believe that, in the future, knowledge will be the most meaningful resource, and as such organizations, like individuals, will have to develop the ability to learn.

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