The purpose of this paper is to shed light on the problematics of learning across knowledge boundaries in organizational settings. The paper specifically explores learning processes that emerge, when a new knowledge domain is introduced into an existing organizational practice with the aim of creating a new combined practice.
A case study was carried out as a “natural experiment” in an engineering consultancy, where emerging initiatives to integrate the newly acquired competencies into the existing practice were explored. A theoretical framework informed by selected perspectives on learning processes and boundary processes was applied on three illustrative vignettes to illuminate learning potentials and shortcomings in boundary processes.
In the engineering consultancy, it was found that while learning did occur in the consultancy organization, it remained discrete in ‘pockets’ of learning; mainly at an individual level, at project level or as domain-specific learning. Learning processes were intertwined with elements of domain-specific interests, power, managerial support, structural conditions, material and epistemic differences between knowledge domains.
The finding in this paper is based on a single case study: hence, the findings' generalizability may be limited.
The paper argues that learning across knowledge domains needs various forms of supporting initiatives and constant readiness to alter or counteract when an initiative's shortcomings appear or undesired learning loops arise.
The paper contributes to understanding the complexity of learning across knowledge boundaries in organizational settings.
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