Learning how to learn: an integrative perspective on the emergence of learning routines
Keywords:routines, learning, activities, formal structure, power
AbstractIn recent years, organizational learning research has been revolving around three different perspectives: cognitive, social and routine-oriented/behavioural. Although a cumulative body of studies appears within each perspective, a lack of studies bridging these different perspectives leaves us with an unclear and partial vision of the different forces that shape learning processes and of the processes by which organizations achieve learning how to learn, i.e. building learning routines. This article aims at understanding the processes by which learning routines emerge within groups through an integrative approach of all three perspectives of learning. To do so, we start with the conceptualisation of routine proposed by Feldman and Pentland. We study how activities (behavioural perspective), formal structures (cognitive perspective) and power relationships (social perspective) affect the emergence of learning routines. A qualitative methodology is used to contrast two longitudinal case studies of groups engaged in processes of knowledge creation about their organisation’s competitive environment (TELCIS case) and about information system implementation (PROBANK case). The two case studies are complementary and lead to an original integrative model. Results show that the emergence of learning routines is effectively shaped by the three factors and suggest, in the conclusive part, that this influence is indirect: emergence seems to be shaped by the dynamic interactions occurring between the three factors rather than by direct influence from each isolated factor. Results also cast light on the political games that take place around the tools provided by formal structures (boundary objects) or created by individual activities (instantiation of epistemic objects). For practitioners, this research underlines the double importance of managers and project managers for the emergence of learning routines as tools provider and as the locus of vertical power relationships. Theoretically, the research enriches the practice turn and the material turn in learning research, especially in the context of information system management.
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