Investigating unlearning and forgetting in organizations

Annette Kluge (Work, Organisational and Business Psychology, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Fakultät für Psychologie, Bochum, Germany)
Arnulf Sebastian Schüffler (Work, Organisational and Business Psychology, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Fakultät für Psychologie, Bochum, Germany)
Christof Thim (Chair of Business Information Systems and Processes, Universitat Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany)
Jennifer Haase (Chair of Business Information Systems and Processes, Universitat Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany)
Norbert Gronau (Chair of Business Information Systems and Processes, Universitat Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany)

The Learning Organization

ISSN: 0969-6474

Publication date: 24 July 2019

Abstract

Purpose

Insight has grown that for an organization to learn and change successfully, forgetting and unlearning are required. The purpose of this paper is to summarize the relevant existing body of empirical research on forgetting and unlearning, to encourage research using a greater variety of methods and to contribute to a more complementary body of empirical work by using designs and instruments with a stronger reference to previous studies.

Design/methodology/approach

As the number of theoretical papers clearly exceeds the number of empirical papers, the present paper deals with the main insights based on the empirical state of research on unlearning and forgetting. So far, these empirical results have shown relationships between unlearning and other organizational outcomes such as innovation on an organizational level, but many of the other proposed relationships have not been investigated. The authors presents suggestion to apply a larger variety of qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods in organizational research.

Findings

Unlearning and forgetting research can benefit both from more diverse theoretical questions addressed in research and from a more complementary body of empirical work that applies methods, designs and instruments that refer to previous research designs and results. To understand and manage unlearning and forgetting, empirical work should relate to and expand upon previous empirical work to form a more coherent understanding of empirical results.

Originality/value

The paper presents a variety of research designs and methods that can be applied within the research context of understanding the nature of organizational forgetting and unlearning. Additionally, it illustrates the potential for different methods, such as experience sampling methods, which capture the temporal aspects of forgetting and unlearning.

Keywords

Citation

Kluge, A., Schüffler, A., Thim, C., Haase, J. and Gronau, N. (2019), "Investigating unlearning and forgetting in organizations", The Learning Organization, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print. https://doi.org/10.1108/TLO-09-2018-0146

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Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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