An inquiry into the front roads and back alleys of organisational learning
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This paper discusses organisational learning based in data from a fieldwork focussing on safety and safety learning. The theoretical framework of the paper emphasises the inherent complexities of learning processes and the paper argues that organisational learning is not a linear and straightforward process. The findings and tentative propositions are seen through the lenses of frontstage vs. backstage performances, situated sensemaking, local knowledge and singleloop vs. doubleloop learning. Learning as managerially designed processes as opposed to learning as complex and situated processes are presented and discussed as two paradigms for learning, and frontstage and backstage learning situations are analysed. It is argued that organisational members participate in and identify with learning efforts both front- and backstage, but that learning interpretations in one arena very seldom cross over to other arenas. The question is raised whether this situation is prominent in organisations where the culture and identity is portrayed as “strong”. It is further argued that the barriers between organisational arenas have consequences for organisational learning since the richness and nuances of local knowledge often are kept in their locations and not shared out in the wider organisation. Lastly, I discuss “the rationale” for keeping this knowledge at organisational backstages, and we also tentatively discuss whether/how it might be possible to let backstage knowledge become included in the wider organisational efforts.
Fra Proceedings of OLKC 2007 - "Learning Fusion". International Conference on Organizational Learning, Knowledge and Capabilities. London, Ontario, Canada, 14.-17. juni 2007.