Organizational learning the Nordic way: learning through participation
Peer reviewed, Journal article
MetadataShow full item record
Original versionLearning Organization. 2022, 29 (3), 229-242. 10.1108/TLO-05-2021-0065
Purpose Is there a specific way of thinking about organisational learning in Nordic countries? Are concepts such as organisational learning and learning organisations imported, or do they emerge with specific meanings from more local discourses? Beyond that, are they supported by specific learning theories? The purpose of this paper is to trace the way that the concepts of organisational learning and learning organisations appear in research and policy documents in Norway and to identify what sort of learning theories pertain to those concepts. The authors discuss whether Norway’s case exemplifies a Nordic way of thinking about learning in organisations. Design/methodology/approach Through an archaeological investigation into the concepts of organisational learning and learning organisations, the authors explore the theoretical and cultural framing of the concepts in research and policy. The authors limit our work to large industrial field experiments conducted in the 1960s and to large education reform in the 2000s. Findings During the industrial field experiments in the 1960s, the concept of organisational learning evolved to form participatory learning processes in non-hierarchical organisations able to contribute to democracy at work. Education policy in the 2000s, by contrast, imported the concept of the learning organisation that primarily viewed learning as an instrumental process of knowledge production. That strategy is incommensurable to what we define as a Nordic way, one in which learning is also understood as a cultural and social process advanced by democratic participation. Originality/value The authors add to organisational learning theories by demonstrating the importance of cultural context for theories and showing that the understanding of learning is historically and culturally embedded.