The Learning Region

The Learning Region

Foundations, State of the Art, Future

Edited by Roel Rutten and Frans Boekema

The aim of this book is to present a much-needed conceptualization of ‘the learning region’. The editors scrutinize key concepts and issues surrounding this phenomenon, which are then discussed in the context of recent literature. This unique conceptualization of the learning region presents a state of the art exploration of theories. Leading scholars from across Europe, the USA and South Africa draw upon various disciplines to explain how regional actors perform regional learning.

Chapter 9: Regional Innovation Systems, Asymmetric Knowledge and the Legacies of Learning

Philip Cooke

Subjects: business and management, organisational innovation, economics and finance, regional economics, geography, economic geography, innovation and technology, innovation policy, organisational innovation, urban and regional studies, regional economics


Philip Cooke 1. INTRODUCTION In this chapter the aim is to achieve three main objectives. The first is to understand why learning discourses have failed. The second aim is to explain this in terms of the new imperatives of knowledge for innovation in a new phase of knowledge-driven globalization. Finally, we will attempt to show how the problem of regional and institutional lags is one of asymmetric knowledge. We ask what the main reasons are that the promise of learning – and particularly in this context – ‘learning regions’ has waxed and then waned so swiftly? Institutional learning has a respectable pedigree going back at least to Argyris (1962) and his efficiency question as to whether organizational hierarchy or heterarchy best nurtured it. Simultaneously, Arrow (1962) asked about the productivity implications of learning to a neoclassical economics community that had hitherto largely ignored it. Following Lundvall’s (1994) exposition of the idea ‘that what will matter is how well one succeeds in developing organisations, which promote learning and the wise use of knowledge . . .’, ‘learning’ became an injunction that was increasingly the first item on a wider developmental wish list. However, its initial impulse as a quest for organizational efficiency inside the large corporation became submerged (Argyris and Schon, 1978). Although ‘the myopia of learning’ has been condemned since at least Levinthal and March (1993), the most devastating recent critique of this comes from two sources. The first comes from work at Harvard Business School by Hansen (2002), who showed the...

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