Organizational Learning Through Debriefing: The Process of Sharing and Hiding Knowledge
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionScandinavian Journal of Military Studies (SJMS). 2020, 3 (1), 169-182. 10.31374/sjms.54
Our objective with this article is to reach a better understanding of debriefing as a learning tool by exploring the process of sharing and hiding knowledge and mistakes, respectively. There is disparity between the ideal of sharing every mistake truthfully on the one hand, thus allowing mutual learning, and the human tendency to hide knowledge on the other hand, thus preventing mutual learning. We have identified the following research question: How do pilots experience the process of sharing and hiding mistakes during debriefing? The context is debriefing as it unfolded during regular training in a fighter squadron in the Royal Norwegian Air Force. Nine military pilots were interviewed, and the data were analyzed through coding and categorization. From the data analysis, four categories with subsequent narratives were revealed: (1) Mastery Culture – Embracing to Share Mistakes, (2) Safety Culture – Embarrassing to Hide Mistakes, (3) Performance Culture – Embarrassing to Share Mistakes, and (4) Cloaking Culture – Negotiating Whether to Share or Hide Mistakes. We discuss our findings in the light of the classic prisoner’s dilemma, delve deeper into the organizational, relational, and personal elements of this process and ask whether the military can learn from other professions. Our research deepens the knowledge of the disparity between the ideal of sharing mistakes and the human tendency to hide knowledge. Our research has practical implications for other military units and operative units, such as the police, fire fighters, and medical personnel as well as for organizational learning in general.