The Learning Organization

ISSN: 0969-6474

Article publication date: 19 July 2011



Eijkman, H. (2011), "Editorial", The Learning Organization, Vol. 18 No. 5. https://doi.org/10.1108/tlo.2011.11918eaa.001



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Article Type: Editorial From: The Learning Organization, Volume 18, Issue 5

This issue features a rich variety of five interesting papers and two book reviews. Before a brief introduction to the papers a few words about the book reviews and the concept of our “TLO Bookshelf” section.

The “TLO Bookshelf” and “Breaking News” sections: opportunities to contribute

In the last few weeks we were presented with an opportunity to review two books and to publicise a conference. This led me to consider having a more or less regular “Book Review” and “conference updates” section. Feedback from the Editorial Advisory Board (EAB) and reviewers confirmed my preference for a broader and more participative approach, one more in keeping with the neo-millennial era of social participation.

Consequently, the “TLO Bookshelf” section is not to be the exclusive domain of an editor but a space in which you are invited to share with us any interesting new books you have come across recently and might like to recommend. Submitting such a “book review” will consist of providing a title with the appropriate referencing details and brief outline of why you recommend this book; what you see as its strengths as well as its limitations or shortcomings. Of course, we expect the reviewer to have no direct or indirect vested interests in the book they recommend.

For submissions to the “TLO Bookshelf” sections please log into the TLO ScholarOne web site (http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/tlo) and submit under document type “Book Review”. This will ensure contributions are centrally logged and do not accidentally get lost within the usual daily avalanche of e-mails.

Our five papers

In this issue we present five very diverse contributions. Though they stem from the USA, Greece, Finland, and The Netherlands, each has something valuable to offer both practitioners and researchers, regardless of location.

The first paper, by Vana Prewitt, deals with the potential of the “World Cafe” method to make significant contributions to large group knowledge exchange and collective meaning making. The “World Cafe” represents a relatively new technique for large group intervention that uses dialogue and reflection-in-action to facilitate knowledge exchange around “appreciative themes” that emphasizes inquiry and understanding rather than problem solving. Vana provides us with valuable insights about when and how to best apply this method. She reminds us that only when employed correctly does the creative potential of the café method lead to the emergence of a collective energy that identifies and embraces new possibilities. There are valuable tips here on a very useful method for facilitating knowledge exchange.

We turn now to two papers that focus on learning within specific environments. In the first instance that of small industrial firms (in Greece) and the second that of a Finnish hospital.

Antonios Panagiotakopoulos examines workplace learning in small enterprises, namely Greek industrial firms. He argues cogently that a key challenge for policy makers and employers is to facilitate work-integrated informal learning within small firms as such an approach is better placed to improve firm performance because of its capacity to effectively address skills mismatch issues.

Anu Kajamaa provides us with a fascinating insight into a less discussed topic, namely learning that involves not just boundary crossing but boundary breaking. Her focus is on what she terms “expansive learning” that, in this case, occurs when an evaluation process includes the actual staff whose performance is being evaluated. This paper will widen our understanding of the ways in which employee initiated organizational change efforts through the co-creation of boundary objects may lead to organizational boundary breaking and hence to “expansive learning”. Readers may also find the focus on Engeström’s theory of expansive learning, in which epistemic actions form an expansive cycle, to be useful in analyzing the consequences of boundary crossing.

The paper by Marlieke Van Grinsven and Max Visser bring us back into more conceptual territory, with their analysis of two important, but less researched antecedents of organizational learning, namely empowerment and knowledge conversion. They point out that various dimensions of organizational learning may be conflicting. Thus, they make a cogent case that at least two dimensions – empowerment and knowledge conversion – do have contradictory effects. Empowerment affects second-order learning in a positive sense, but first-order learning in a negative sense. Knowledge conversion is positively related to first-order learning, but negatively to second-order learning. Thus, efforts to improve organizational learning on one dimension may have (unintended) effects on the other. They stress that their findings have several implications for managerial practice and empirical research. Managers need to recognize that efforts to improve organizational learning on one dimension may have other (unintended) effects on the other. Hence, they should be aware of the possible side effects of their efforts, and these should be taken into account when considering learning goals and strategies. Researchers also need to consider future research that empirically investigates the effects of multiple antecedents and their combined effects. Furthermore, the analysis of additional dimensions of organizational learning will help achieve a more holistic view of organizational learning and its antecedents.

The last paper by Richa Awasthy applies the DLOQ tool to examine the learning orientation of both manufacturing and service organizations in India. Her paper is an encouraging attempt to empirically explore the relationships among these constructs at two specified levels in manufacturing versus service firms using regression analysis. The results indicate that the impact of the structural level dimension is greater impact compared to the people level dimension irrespective of the sector. This paper will be of interest to both managers and scholars in the National Capital Region specifically and in India more generally.

I hope you enjoy this issue. Should you have any ideas for the journal, or feedback about its quality, range of articles etc. please contact me at h.eijkman@adfa.edu.au


Henk Eijkman

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