Handbook on the Knowledge Economy, Volume Two

Handbook on the Knowledge Economy, Volume Two

Elgar original reference

Edited by David Rooney, Greg Hearn and Tim Kastelle

Readers with interests in managing knowledge- and innovation-intensive businesses and those who are seeking new insights about how knowledge economies work will find this book an invaluable reference tool. Chapters deal with issues such as open innovation, wellbeing, and digital work that managers and policymakers are increasingly asked to respond to. Contributors to the Handbook are globally recognised experts in their fields providing valuable guidance.

Chapter 5: Knowledge, Learning and Pain

René ten Bos

Subjects: business and management, knowledge management, organisational innovation, public management, innovation and technology, innovation policy, knowledge management, organisational innovation, politics and public policy, public administration and management, public policy


René ten Bos Pain is a topic that has raised the attention of many organizational scholars. The topics of humiliation, emotional labour, occupational disease and stress have been addressed extensively. There is no need to go into that here. We are rather more interested in the absence of pain from the popular literature on organizational knowledge and organizational learning. If pain is addressed at all, then it is always described in terms of something that needs to vanish from the face of the world as quickly as possible. See here, for example, what Eric Abrahamson, a professor of business at Columbia Business School, writes in the preface of a book on the possibility of organizational change without pain: If DTT, GKN, and Sony executives taught me one lesson, it is that we must counterbalance the fatalism ‘no pain, no change’ with an ideal of ‘pain without change’. This ideal should be a benchmark for how well a manager, a leader, or an employee managed a change. Change without pain is a benchmark, even if it is unreachable, managers and leaders must aspire to. (Abrahamson, 2004, p. xiii) That a painless world might not be attainable does not prevent Abrahamson from thinking that such a world would be very desirable. Undoubtedly, he strikes a chord with managerial audiences. Who would, after all, want to claim that pain is good or beneficial? That so many people think that pain is bad is perhaps related to its eerie meaninglessness (Morris, 1991, p. 77)...

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