Edited by David Rooney, Greg Hearn and Tim Kastelle
Chapter 5: Knowledge, Learning and Pain
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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