Foundations, State of the Art, Future
Edited by Roel Rutten and Frans Boekema
Chapter 9: Regional Innovation Systems, Asymmetric Knowledge and the Legacies of Learning
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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