Learning Inquiry

, Volume 1, Issue 3, pp 203–218 | Cite as

The unbearable lightness of organizational learning theory: organizations, information technologies, and complexities of learning in theory and practice

Article

Abstract

Over the last decades the notion of learning has become increasingly popular both as an intellectual site of investigation and as an organizational aspiration. However, learning has many—sometimes contradictory—meanings. For pragmatic sociologists and researchers in science and technology studies (STS) the notion may appeal because of its connotations of ongoing and unpredictable transformation. Yet, a more predominant viewpoint associated with cognitive research, conceive of learning in terms of organized and controllable change processes. We characterize the latter viewpoint as the unbearable lightness of learning. We use Argyris and Schön’s model of organizational learning to illustrate some of the problematic theoretical assumptions and empirical consequences, which are entailed by viewing learning in exclusively cognitive terms. Prominent among these is the inability to analyze social and technologically mediated organizational learning. In conclusion, we argue that alternative models for organizational learning could find inspiration in science and technology studies.

Keywords

Cognition Learning Organizational learning STS Technical mediation 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Organization and Industrial SociologyCopenhagen Business SchoolFrederiksbergDenmark
  2. 2.Department of Information and Media StudiesUniversity of AarhusAarhus NDenmark

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