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Experiential learning in retrospect: a future organizational challenge?

Annika Olsson (Design Sciences, Packaging Logistics, Lund University, Lund, Sweden)
Urban Bjöörn (Volvo Car Corporation, Göteborg, Sweden)
Gunilla Jönson (Design Sciences, Packaging Logistics, Lund University, Lund, Sweden)

Journal of Workplace Learning

ISSN: 1366-5626

Article publication date: 8 August 2008



The purpose of this paper is to describe a retrospective reflection over unconscious, emergent learning among employees of an organization and to suggest how to capture these moments of experiential learning for future organizational learning.


Action research in organizations is undertaken in interaction with the employees of the organization studied. The outcome is characterized by a deep understanding of the individuals as well as of the course of events in the system. The paper therefore applies action research, focusing on the experiential learning from daily actions in the case organization at Volvo Cars’ production plant in Sweden.


The conclusion is that an evolution toward a learning organization, as exemplified by the case studied, is not identified until after it actually happens, i.e. in retrospect. It is suggested that the competence build‐up recognized in retrospect should become an integral part of future educational programs. The multidisciplinary competence established should also be considered when teams are set up for new projects.

Practical implications

Future strategies for capturing learning are provided and summarized, to structure the capturing of learning as it takes place in the daily operation, to identify the individuals who initiate changes and let them act as learning ambassadors, to integrate multidisciplinary competencies in the early stages of projects, and to facilitate multidisciplinary cooperation along organizational processes, within and between firms.


The paper's contribution is the identification of and reflection about emergent learning that takes place in daily work tasks. It also provides suggestions for future strategies of capturing these experiential learning occasions.



Olsson, A., Bjöörn, U. and Jönson, G. (2008), "Experiential learning in retrospect: a future organizational challenge?", Journal of Workplace Learning, Vol. 20 No. 6, pp. 431-442.



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