Learning in complex organizations as practicing and reflecting

Klaus‐Peter Schulz (Department of Innovation Research and Sustainable Resource Management, Chemnitz University of Technology, Chemnitz, Germany(E‐mail: schultzkp@wirtschaft.tu‐chemnitz.de))

Journal of Workplace Learning

ISSN: 1366-5626

Publication date: 1 December 2005



The article seeks to conceptualize learning in practice from a theories of practice view. This paradigmatic shift allows one to overcome problem areas related to traditional conceptions of learning such as the difficulty of knowledge transfer, and related to many situated learning models that neglect the aspect of reification of practice. Therefore the approach being presented in the following study considers learning and development as an interrelation of practicing and reflecting.


A case study of learning and development in production at a pharmaceutical company shows how these theoretical aspects can be applied in the working context of a complex organization. Results of the application are evaluated through several qualitative research methods.


The case study suggests that learning through corporate practicing in a process simulation which takes place in the original working context leads to intensive reflection between participants. The reflection brings about change in understandings and can finally lead to development in the organization.

Practical implications

Since the process simulation has been in use for several years now, the paper gives an example how learning and reflecting are brought about through corporate practicing in a context close to operational reality.


The article provides a different perspective on learning in practice. Learning, as practicing and reflecting, is seen not only as an individual process but also as a prerequisite for organizational development. The paper provides, besides the theoretic conceptualization, the example of a successful implementation in process industry.



Schulz, K. (2005), "Learning in complex organizations as practicing and reflecting", Journal of Workplace Learning, Vol. 17 No. 8, pp. 493-507. https://doi.org/10.1108/13665620510625363

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