Handbook of Research on the Learning Organization
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Handbook of Research on the Learning Organization

Adaptation and Context

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.
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Chapter 18: Who is the learning organization for? A stakeholder contingency approach to contextualizing managerial panaceas

Anders Örtenblad


Similar to more classical contingency works, such as Mintzberg’s (1981, 1983) work on organizational structure and Fiedler’s (1978) work on leadership, research that aims to adapt management ideas to certain particular contexts tends to assume that effectiveness, limited to the single organization and/or individual, is the ultimate objective (e.g. Alavi & McCormick 2004; Sitkin et al. 1994). The literature that advises on the relevance of the learning organization idea to organizations in certain particular contexts is hardly any exception; while the choice of perspective is rarely made explicit and it is sometimes indeed difficult to interpret the authors’ intentions, it is evident from my literature reviews that there is a bias toward organizational effectiveness. This is, of course, in accordance with the strong focus on ‘utopian sunshine’ that the major part of the learning organization literature proclaims (Driver 2002). In response to this bias in the prior works I suggest a ‘stakeholder contingency approach’ and showcase an analysis made from such an approach, in which the relevance of the learning organization is examined from four stakeholder perspectives (see also Örtenblad 2011).

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