This article develops an understanding of the agential role of boundary objects in generating and politicizing learning in organizations, as it emerges from the entangled actions of humans and non-humans. We offer two empirical vignettes in which middle managers seek to develop more sustainable ways of working. Informed by Foucault’s writing on power, our work highlights how power relations enable and foreclose the affordances, or possibilities for action, associated with boundary objects. Our data demonstrate how this impacts the learning that emerges as boundary objects are configured and unraveled over time. In so doing, we illustrate how boundary objects are not fixed entities, but are mutable, relational, and politicized in nature. Connecting boundary objects to affordances within a Foucauldian perspective on power offers a more nuanced understanding of how ‘the material’ plays an agential role in consolidating and disrupting understandings in the accomplishment of learning.
Performance appraisal interviews remain central to how employees are scrutinised, rewarded and sometimes penalised by managers. But they are also often castigated as ineffective, or even harmful, to both individuals and organisations. Exploring this paradox, we highlight the influence of agency theory on the (mal)practice of performance appraisal. The performative nature of human resource management increasingly reflects an economic approach within which its practices are aligned with agency theory. Such theory assumes that actors are motivated mainly or only by economic self-interest. Close surveillance is required to eliminate the risk of shirking and other deviant behaviours. It is a pessimistic mind-set about people that undermines the supportive, co-operative and developmental rhetoric with which appraisal interviews are usually accompanied. Consequently, managers often practice appraisal interviews while holding onto two contradictory mind-sets, a state of Orwellian Doublethink that damages individual learning and organisational performance. We encourage researchers to adopt a more radical critique of appraisal practices that foregrounds issues of power, control and conflicted interests between actors beyond the analyses offered to date.
In this article, I develop a new perspective on being reflexive, which appreciates unknowing as a core aspect. The intention is to promote more inclusive and equitable ways of managing and organising. By drawing on my own and others’ experiences of the ‘business method’ of the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, images of the possibilities for reflexive practice, which embrace individual unknowing and help foster systemic intelligence, are explored. A relational ontology is pursued as these ideas can offer a suitable bridge to bring the processes of Quakers into conversation with debates about reflexive practice. The implication is that in the perspective developed, managing reflexively can be understood as a collective practice of searching for unity, or ‘sense of the meeting’, which is achieved through relational processes.
Taking human resource development as its primary context, this article asks, ‘How can scholars mobilise queer theory concepts to move beyond treating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender identities as binaried, bounded and stable categories?’ While human resource development scholarship has made important, albeit limited, progress here, this article provides a review of queer theory to help scholars engage more deeply with some of its key concepts and theoretical resources to that end. In particular, one of this article’s main contributions is advancing the nascent in-roads Judith Butler’s writing has made into human resource development, management education and learning by linking her theory of gender performativity with the notion of cultural intelligibility. The aim of the article is to show how lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender identity categories can be destabilised so that they can be examined queerly: performatively constituted and permanently open to contestation and resignification. Crucially, the wider applications and implications of queer theory are drawn out, such as how queer pedagogy can inform management education. This article also highlights possibilities for management learning scholars to queer other identities (e.g. heterosexual), organisations and modes of organising.
Entrepreneurship literature has proven the efficacy of an experiential and collaborative learning approach that promotes entrepreneurial capabilities, that is, risk-taking, positive thinking, vision, intuitive decision-making, creative problem-solving, managing interdependency, tolerating ambiguity and innovation. To advance this, we propose a Deleuzian-inspired theoretical framework for entrepreneurship learning around innovation based on a rhizomatic perspective. We offer an illustrative case and identify the advantages and challenges of a rhizomatic approach to learning.
With increased scrutiny over the value and promise of higher education, liberal arts degrees face criticism, in favor of professional degrees like business that position students for a linear career path to lucrative work. Research for this article is based on 20 interviews with college students majoring in Arts and Sciences, who completed a summer program to obtain a business minor. Our findings demonstrate that participants talk about the business minor as a key factor in ‘selling themselves’ to potential employers by (1) highlighting the discipline required to complete the program, (2) acting as a conversation starter with potential employees, and (3) emphasizing the broad applicability of a business minor. Implications demonstrate the power of professionalism to render specialized knowledge (like business knowledge) insignificant while offering an extension of Williams’ ideal-worker norm to young people.
Within accounting education, both conceptual and experiential learning have been important learning approaches. However, while experiential learning has been extensively studied in accounting education, the critical role of conceptual learning has received considerably less attention. In this article, we review theory and research to develop a framework involving the Throughput Model that relates to both conceptual and experiential learning. Based on our review and combination, we suggest implications for the design and implementation of accounting education.
We are facing a world where business schools have made it their primary aim to enhance student career prospects and/or salaries by teaching business solely from a business perspective. The authors of this article explore international business students’ viewpoints on the purpose of business school teaching and business school graduates. Having operationalized a typology of business school graduates as a student survey, the authors show that students expect a balanced education. As a business school graduate, they see their purpose not only to replace the existing successful managers and increase the effectiveness of organizations but also to be able to ensure humane, ethical and eco-friendly organizations promoting economic and social welfare and justice. In addition, and quite contrary to what many claim in extant literature, students value and identify with intellectual curiosity, critical thinking and introspection which would ultimately pave the way for serving the public interest. We therefore suggest that for a business school to ‘legitimately’ position itself as a university and rightfully provide academic degrees, it should, in addition to providing students with a profit-maximization toolkit, deliver a wider education balancing different (human, moral, environmental, social and so on) perspectives.
Stretch goal setting is a process involving multiple and nested paradoxes. The paradoxical side of stretch is attractive because it holds great promise yet dangerous because it triggers processes that are hard to control. Paradoxes are not readily managed by assuming a linear relation between the here and now and the intended future perfect. Before adopting stretch goal setting, managers should thus be prepared for the tensions and contradictions created by nested or interwoven paradoxes. Achieving stretch goals can be as difficult for the managers seeking to direct the process as for designated delegates. While the increasing popularity of stretch goal setting is understandable, its unexpected consequences must be taken into account. The inadequate use of stretch goals can jeopardize the social sustainability of organizations as well as their societal support systems.
Entrepreneurs develop activities that aim to challenge the status quo, break rules and subvert systems. How can such a thing be taught/learnt in a business school? This article contributes to current debates within entrepreneurship studies that seek to address the subversive nature of entrepreneurial activity. It presents an ethnographic case study of an entrepreneurship course that attempts to re-define the teaching and learning boundaries of subversive activities in a leading European business school. Drawing on the theory of Bakhtin, which has thus far been overlooked in entrepreneurship studies, we unpick the potentiality of art practices in the learning and experiencing of the subversive dimension of entrepreneurship. We employ the concept of ‘dialogical pedagogy’ in order to address calls for more ‘relationally experienced’ approaches to management learning that foreground the conflicts, emotional strains and uncertainties that are embedded in the fabric of entrepreneurial practice. We show how ‘subversive dialogues’ are enacted between students and teachers as they engage in the learning process, and we discuss implications for critical entrepreneurship teaching in an increasingly commoditized education environment.
This study analyses the transmission of cultural family values in family firms through storytelling. Specifically, we investigate whether cultural family values that are intended to be imparted by a story and its teller are also perceived accurately by listeners (i.e. the intended imparted value and the perceived value are congruent). We use a mixed-methods design including a qualitative phase, which identifies stories told in three German family firms, and a quantitative phase, which analyses the value perception (i.e. subjective cognition) of 226 individuals from outside the firm for a selected number of six stories. Results indicate that the intended values of the selected stories are perceived accurately by the individuals. Hence, stories might describe a useful means for transmitting cultural family values in family firms.
The concept of communities of practice has generated considerable debate among scholars of management. Attention has shifted from a concern with the transmission and reproduction of knowledge towards their utility for enhancing innovative potential. Questions of governance, power, collaboration and control have all entered the debate with different theorizations emerging from a wide mix of empirical research. We appraise these key findings through a critical review of the literature. From a divergent range of findings, we identify four main ways in which communities of practice enable and constrain innovative capabilities as (a) enablers of learning for innovation, (b) situated platforms for professional occupations, (c) dispersed collaborative environments and (d) governance structures designed for purpose. Our conclusion signals the way forward for further research that could be used to improve our understanding of different contextual forms and how they may align with organizations in enabling rather than constraining innovative capabilities.
In this article, we examine the construct of ‘leadership’ through an analysis of the social practices that underpinned the Australian Broadcasting Corporation television production entitled The Code. Positioning the production within the neo-bureaucratic organisational form currently adopted by the global television industry, we explore new conceptualisations of the leadership phenomenon emerging within this industry in response to the increasingly complex, uncertain and interdependent nature of creative work within it. We show how the polyarchic governance regime characteristic of the neo-bureaucratic organisational form ensures broadcaster control and coordination through ‘hard power’ mechanisms embedded in the commissioning process and through ‘soft power’ relational practices that allow creative licence to those employed in the production. Furthermore, we show how both sets of practices (commissioning and creative practices) leverage and regenerate the relational resources – such as trust, commitment and resilience – gained from rich stakeholder experience of working together in the creative industries over a significant period of time. Referencing the leadership-as-practice perspective, we highlight the contingent and improvisational nature of these practices and metaphorically describe the leadership manifesting in this production as a form of ‘interstitial glue’ that binds and shapes stakeholder interests and collective agency.
This article shows how the MBA plays a role in some students’ lives that goes beyond conscious cost–benefit analyses and instrumental value and engages the personal and intimate. It presents a thematic analysis of essays written by MBA students exploring what their MBA was for. The analysis revealed that the MBA functioned as an element or character in a life story and how, in some instances, doing the MBA was not about the MBA as such. The article advances our understanding of the MBA as an element in a life story, as a rite of passage, and as part of the intersection of boundaryless careers and changeable life patterns. Enhancing the awareness of this on the part of students may improve their understanding of what they are doing by embarking on an MBA and could enhance the ability of faculty and business schools to address the sometimes less explicit interests of their students. The article also confirms the value of a qualitative ‘storied’ approach to the study of the MBA.
We draw upon the concept of liminality to explore the experiences of practitioners enrolled on a UK Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) programme. We analyse 20 practitioners’ reflective journals to detail how the Doctor of Business Administration liminal space was negotiated. More specifically, we describe how practitioners deal with their struggles of identity incoherence or ‘monsters of doubt’ which are amplified in the Doctor of Business Administration context owing to the complex nature of the separation phase of liminality. We identify three broad methods deployed in this endeavour – ‘scaffolding’, ‘putting the past to work’ and ‘bracketing’ – which evidence practitioners ‘desperately seeking fixedness’. We make three contributions. First, we provide empirical insights into the experiences of the increasingly significant, but still under-researched, Doctor of Business Administration student. Second, we develop our understandings of monsters of doubt through illustrating how these are negotiated for learning to progress. Finally, we contribute to wider discussions of ‘becoming’ to demonstrate the simultaneous and paradoxical importance of movement and fixedness in order to learn and become.
The purpose of this article is to explore what can be learned about management learning when social poetics is used as a perspective to make sense of how seven leaders, during a year-long top leader competence development course, constructed meaning with each other, with consultants and with researchers about what leading in ‘Cullinan ways’ means. The article is based on a relational constructionism perspective, and we bring in two aspects of social poetics – the notion of metaphors and engaging in reflexive critique – to present and discuss how the understanding and use of the concept ‘Cullinany’ continually changed and was reworked based on the conversations the seven leaders had with each other. The purpose of this presentation is to initiate a discussion about how formal management learning programmes can be understood (and possibly also designed) from a perspective in which the ontological and social poetic aspects of language are assigned primacy.
This article offers a praxis of democratic leadership development, arguing that the framework presented can act as a means of rethinking how collective forms of leadership are developed within and between organisations. Building on notions of leadership development as process and person-based, we interpret these as contested, democratic and contingent discursive achievements in a process of developing. Post-foundationalist theory, particularly the work of Ernesto Laclau, is introduced as a means of ‘democratizing’ key dimensions of leadership development: working with ‘leadership’ and ‘democracy’ as empty-floating signifiers holding the potential to generate energetic engagements between leadership development participants. A framework consisting of four dimensions is introduced, with particular attention paid within each dimension to its practice relevance. First, we seek to democratise the leader-subject, reinterpreted as a contested and contingent signifying subject of discourse. Second, we seek to radicalise the process of development through foregrounding conflict and agonistic practice. Third, we introduce the notion of symbolic violence as a means of thinking about direction setting within development contexts. Fourth, we argue for development that pays attention to the unknown, to the gaps in discourse. We explore each dimension in relation to an illustrative example, a cross-organisational women’s group in the Pacific.
We provide a critique of the development in organisation studies of the idea of ‘unlearning’ as allegedly imported from the psychology literature by Hedberg and understood to mean the manageable discard of knowledge precedent to and aiding later learning. We re-review the psychology literature and in contrast to Hedberg, find that this definition of unlearning is not empirically warranted. We re-examine a selection of highly cited articles in the organisational literature that claim to have conducted empirical research into the Hedberg model of unlearning. We find none provide evidence of its existence. Typically, under the label ‘unlearning’ evidence is provided of a conventional process of theory-change, the setting aside (not deletion) of an established understanding in favour of new understanding when presented with perceived new facts. In all cases that we examine, clear alternative and less problematic concepts should provide a better conceptual framework for the research, such as learning, theory-change, discard of practice and extinction. It follows that the unlearning literature is not in fact the independent, scholarly and scientific literature that many of its adherents believe it to be. We recommend that for concepts allegedly imported from other disciplines more frequent commissioning of cross-disciplinary reviews may encourage the critical works so obviously lacking in the unlearning literature.
Beyond the existing theorizing of translation as a creative disruption in both occupational and semantic terms, this study explores it critically in the experiential framework of professional translators and as a meaning-making process. Acknowledging the role of translation in creating dialogic and radical climates for learning, the article proposes to explore the other side of this relationship by studying how the limiting of space for translation delimits the possibilities for meaning-creation, thus precluding dialogue. In addition to this general point, it ponders the specific aporia of organizationally embedded adversity of translation in the occupational context (apparently) devoted to semantic labour, namely that of translator’s work. It demonstrates that the rigidity of meaning-making and the inexorableness of partaking in the uncanny déjà vu are the reflections of specific organizational (bureaucratic) frame and posits that they may be used as experiential and semantic heuristics for better understanding learning and non-learning in organizations.
The Hofstede and GLOBE national culture dimensions are commonly used by business and management educators, researchers and practitioners to understand cultural differences between countries. However, there are fundamental problems in using these dimensions to learn about cross-cultural differences. First, there is a lack of face validity in many of the items used to determine the culture scores. Second, national culture scores for similar dimensions across the two models for common countries are either unrelated or negatively related, and for dissimilar dimensions are often more strongly related than for the similar dimensions. A lack of face, convergent and discriminant validity seriously undermines the credibility of the dimension scores in representing the culture phenomena that they claim to represent. Hence, using these scores to infer the broader characteristics of societies, individuals and organizations is invalid and the managerial prescriptions based on such research are misleading. As cross-cultural learning in management is largely shaped by national culture models, the blind faith in these models is perpetuating cultural ignorance.
We look to the experiences of middle managers in a health-care setting to empirically develop and explore the concept of voiced inner dialogue. Voiced inner dialogue is conceptualised as a form of reflection-on-action whereby fragments of narrative self-reflection reveal an organisation’s unspoken backdrop conversation or interpersonal mush. The normalised intensity that characterises many health-care settings, an artefact of increased governmentality and responsibilisation, leaves middle managers experiencing increased work and personal pressures. The interpersonal mush in this context is centred upon individuals’ felt disconnect between espoused and enacted organisational values. Voiced inner dialogue was triggered in dialogic conversation with the researchers, a type of participant-focused reflexivity. From our qualitative analysis, we present three themes to illuminate how organisational context can inform the creation and maintenance of interpersonal mush, impeding managers’ reflection. Voiced inner dialogue offers an opportunity for managers stuck in the silence of interpersonal mush to engage in reflection-on-action. We conclude with the implications for reflection, reflexivity and management learning.
This inductive case study extends existing reflective learning theory by introducing the concept of critical event recognition. We define this as the cognitive process through which individuals conclude that they are facing a critical learning point that demands a change of thoughts and actions. Extant theory has described reflection and learning as processes of interaction among an individual’s various experiences and has emphasized that critical events are important for these processes. Yet, theory has largely ignored how learners develop task-specific cognitions from such critical events when they lack previous task-specific experiences to which they can relate the reflection. This study proposes an extended perspective on reflective learning by shedding light on event recognition and by illustrating how cognitive development may progress when the individual has little prior experience with which to integrate the reflection from critical events.
This article develops the concept media for reflection in the interest of conceptualizing the interpretative frames that enable and limit reflection in management and leadership education. The concept ‘media for reflection’ allows us to conceptualize the social and cultural mediation of reflection without reducing reflection to an effect of the social structures and cultural norms in which it is embedded. Based on the developed theoretical framework, this article analyses how a renaissance ‘mirror for princes’ and contemporary research-based management education mediate reflection. The content of the mediations is analysed as well as the societal and organizational background. Furthermore, the means by which the two media enable and limit reflection in different ways is compared. Finally, the article discusses possible implications of the analysis in terms of management and leadership education.
In this article, I expand earlier work on queer reflexivity by positioning the ‘closet’ as a guiding metaphor for reflexive practice in field research. As such, I reconceptualize queer reflexivity as being reflexive about (1) negotiating the ‘closet’ by revealing and concealing multiple aspects of ourselves to others in the field, (2) the categories we use to identify ourselves and others, (3) the ways in which researchers construct (non)normative identities in the field and (4) aspects of ourselves that change in the field through interactions with others and the process of learning. In order to illustrate what field researchers can learn from this expanded conceptualization of queer reflexivity, I draw upon an auto-ethnographic tale about the implications of moving into and out of the closet in multiple ways over the course of the 2-year ethnography that I conducted for my dissertation research.
Care is not an innate human capacity; rather, it is an organizational competence, a situated knowing that a group of professionals enact while attending to their everyday tasks. We propose a post-humanist practice approach to reading care as a matter of concern for those producing care and for society at large. Care is framed as a collective knowledgeable ‘doing’, it is not an object or a quality that is added to work; rather, it is ‘caring’, an ongoing sociomaterial accomplishment. Through an ethnography in a nursing home for the elderly, we describe: (a) how caring was collectively performed in keeping a common orientation, (b) how caring was inscribed in a texture of practices, and (c) how a technological change in nutrition practice mobilized ethics as practice in situated decision-making. Since natural nutrition is being increasingly replaced by artificial feeding, we describe how the collective and organizational ethic of care with tube feeding is talked about in practice, in a front-stage situation and in the back-stage one. In this process, the duality of care as a matter of concern and as the process of being concerned by caring becomes visible.
The "global war for talent" refers to the increasing competition among organizations and regional governments for top employees. The concept of "war" in this context acts as a powerful metaphor, heightening the intensity with which organizational and regional leaders mobilize their efforts to create, attract, and retain "top talent." However, this article argues that the "war for talent" is not a distant practice articulated between corporate and state spheres of action but a set of activities directly connected to those in higher education institutions. Framed through the theoretical and methodological approach of Institutional Ethnography, this study tracked students’ activities and experiences with a university’s economic development initiative, Generation Now, showing how the students’ experiences are connected to the global war for talent, how they become its foot soldiers, and with what consequences. More generally, tracing these connections is critical for making sense of contemporary modes of organizing in university classrooms, furthering class hierarchies and neoliberal rationales not necessarily related to students’ educational expectations in the conventional sense. Specifically in this case, experiences derived from classroom activities drafted and differentiated students for a war not of their making while naturalizing their "rightful" places in the global economy.
Internationalisation of the postgraduate classroom has become a feature of UK business schools, but traditional seminar-led learning often does not suit international students’ learning needs. This article reports on a pilot project that used experiential drama workshops, held in a local theatre, as a response to the challenges created by internationalisation. As part of a collaborative auto-ethnography between two academics and a theatre practitioner, the article focuses on a theatre workshop where UK and Chinese MA Management students (the latter being the majority) were given full creative control to create a theatrical performance about the collapse of Enron. We outline how the project provided students with an opportunity to learn about ethical leadership through a series of experiential drama exercises and how it equipped the lecturers with tools and understandings that were subsequently used to teach leadership and critical management studies in a more inclusive way. We conclude by discussing the benefits of using drama techniques to address internationalisation challenges and urge business schools with a large international cohort to engage in a degree of pedagogical risk-taking in order to foster alternative ways of learning that are more inclusive and experientially based.
In studies of the diffusion or translation of management ideas, power is frequently implied but is rarely theorised explicitly. Moreover, when it is recognised, the focus is often on only one form of power. This can obscure how different forms of power relate to each other, shape idea diffusion and connect to different forms of resistance. Using Lukes’ classic framing of power, we explore the activities of a key agent in the diffusion of ideas – management consultancy – and one of the leading players in that field – McKinsey & Co. We draw on diverse, publicly available forms of data on three different management ideas to identify how different forms of power and resistance enable and constrain the diffusion of management ideas. Our study emphasises both the dynamic relations between different forms of power over time and the importance of acknowledging the unintended consequences of power. At the same time, by focusing on power dynamics mostly operating outside of consulting projects, we add to our understanding of the role of consultancy in the diffusion of management ideas more generally.
The article seeks to make sense of the choices facing the public leadership development facilitator, in design and in-the-moment programme decisions. The challenge is posited as one of situating knowledge of facilitation practices in a critical relationship with the public sector leadership literature and the critical leadership development literature. The article positions public leadership development facilitation as sitting within three pressing dilemmas, or crossroads, concerning public leadership theory, critical leadership development scholarship and facilitation scholarship. A narrative ethnographic methodology is adopted to explore the constructions of a specific public sector leadership development facilitator as a means of analysing facilitator choices in action. An interpretation of how the facilitator frames and constructs public leadership in relation to the constructions of participants is offered. The article situates facilitator choices as highly political, sitting contextually between the idealism of the public sector literature and the social identifications of participants. The authors offer two dominant forms of facilitation choices (framing and adaptive) as a heuristic for facilitators, practitioners and scholars who wish to reflect further on the role of leadership development in the public realm.
Wonder is the first passion in all inquiry and our reason to know, yet a phenomenon that is largely neglected in organizational research. Taking a relational and process approach, we develop a theory for the role of wonder in organizational inquiry. We propose that wonder in inquiry unfolds as a twofold movement between receptive appreciation and self-transcendent search, and we chart wonder’s course in four stages or "moments" of arousal, expansion, immersion, and explanation. Examples from generative experiences in qualitative research, hydrocarbon exploration, and feature journalism are used to illustrate and qualify this theory. At last, we emphasize main implications for organization studies in the importance of wondering together, of upholding the mysteries of wonder, and of keeping wonder alive in our conversations.
The economic crisis of 2008/2009 has increased unemployment among managers, particularly older managers, a group under-researched empirically. This longitudinal study assesses the efficacy of executive coaching for a group of unemployed professionals who participated in an intensive coaching programme aimed at reintegrating them into the economy. Results suggest that the majority were positive about coaching, a process that helped them to reflect on and learn from their new circumstances. Findings also contradict other studies, indicating cautious, cool and even hostile responses to coaching. The study highlights the mental fragility of previously successful, now unemployed managers. From a policy perspective, interventions should start earlier (before employees leave an organisation) and finish later. From a social science perspective, executive coaching represents a modest but sometimes effective initiative to help unemployed professionals to re-write their life stories to make sense of their experiences.
This article provides a reading of the civic republican ideas of the political philosopher Philip Pettit in order to make new contributions to learning within organisational life. Our aim is to achieve non-domination in the workplace, and we suggest how Pettit’s work, through the provision of a democratic constitution and development of the resources of individuals and groups, might inspire eminently practical ways in which to increase freedom and minimise asymmetries of power at work. Such asymmetries have long been an ingrained feature of organisations, confounding even the most progressive attempts to increase opportunities to learn and act within organisations. We do not, therefore, underestimate the problems involved. Nevertheless, we advance our arguments as new – but practicable – contributions to progressive forms of management learning.
In this article, we elucidate that exploring managerial talk through the lens of metaphor might offer an opportunity to bridge the often acclaimed gap between rigour and relevance in management research and education. Building on an interpretative research approach and a qualitative field study among managers from the Netherlands, Poland and the United States, we reveal that managers view their day-to-day interactions in relationships with suppliers and clients as if they perform acts, play games and fight battles. These findings corroborate extant research, but they also show that combining (a) the use of metaphor as an analytical tool with (b) a focus on managers’ perceptions of their own and others’ micro-level behaviours offers substantial potential for synthesising theory with practice. More specifically, we argue that the layered nature of metaphors – on a primary level helping us imbue meaning to raw observations, and on a theoretical level drawing our attention to potentially interesting constructs – propels confrontation and symbiosis between research and practice. Simultaneously, a focus on micro-level behaviours enhances recognisability for practitioners, while facilitating the emergence of fine-mazed patterns underlying emerging constructs on a theoretical level.
Design or integrated thinking increasingly features in discussion of the future of business education that seeks to innovate new models different from the functionalist, modernist silos of the past. The impact of the Global Financial Crisis and the attribution of responsibility for it, in part, to the conventional knowledge reproduced in Business Schools, have provided an incentive for innovation. The article reports a case study of one innovation process in a Business School, with the aim of investigating its basic tenets and questioning its assumptions. First, at a general level, we illustrate how Business Schools attempt to become more global, integrated and innovative; second, we elaborate the context of the research, showing how global ideas become translated into local institution by means of specific representational devices; and third, on the basis of the empirical material, we characterise the effects of these processes as one of ‘lightness’, defined not in terms of mass or density but the translucence of three relevant representational devices: curriculum, branding and building. Translucence poses critical issues for this model of management learning, but it may also offer opportunities for resistance to normalising tendencies.
This study focuses on individuals working under transient and mobile conditions and the specific competences that they develop to deal with such work conditions. The article examines a specific type of knowledge worker, namely, the mobile project worker who is employed by a technical consultancy but who performs work on various client projects together with members from client organizations. The overall aim of this article is to improve our understanding of the differences among people’s abilities to handle fluid and flexible work conditions. We elaborate on the notion of "liminality" to denote a particular element of flexible work conditions, which consists of continuous movement among assignments and of simultaneous engagement with several organizations. Based on qualitative and interpretative research involving a combination of interviews, diaries, and workshops, this article identifies three levels of specific "liminality competence" that mobile project workers develop to deal with liminality at work.
This article explores situated practices in communities that provide transnational services. Communities of practice generally focus on reinforcing local ties. Our study identifies two distinctive but interdependent communities of practice that are transnational and virtual: one community consists of employees who share work and tasks, labeled communities of task; the other consists of employees who jointly share and create knowledge, labeled communities of learning. We extend the existing community of practice literature by providing a heterogeneous understanding of the different types of situated practices, claiming that the situated practices of sharing work and sharing knowledge stem from the type of participation within the communities, either through service relays or virtual servicing. Empirical data in this study were collected from two transnational professional service firms. Our study shows that both types of communities benefit from managerial facilitation, even though one community type is more formal and the other is informal.
The recent burgeoning of "organizational aesthetics" scholarship represents unrealized potential for transforming management learning practices. In response to calls for more embodied "holistic" ways of knowing, the present case study is a "wayfinding" journey into organizational aesthetic encounters with undergraduate management students. Initial encounters reveal how narratives of organizational quotidian evoke aesthetic attunement. Closer encounters engage students with their own aesthetic inquiries and artifacts to re-present aesthetic knowledge and sensibilities. As aesthetically attuned and active producers of "organizational aesthetics," what is sensible and thus knowable in the context of management learning is disturbed—informing and enlivening our learning experiences. From a practical standpoint, these types of aesthetic encounters may breach the "management learning" peace, one disturbance at a time.
This article explores an innovative model of management education, the Team Academy based in Finland, in which teams of learners create and operate real enterprises, supported by coaches. The contributions of the article are to provide insights into how the Team Academy works, and to review its implications for theories of management learning and educational design. Based on a case study of the Team Academy model, we argue that management education programmes need to be construed as artificially created learning environments, and specifically as ‘micro-cultures’ – local contexts in which pedagogical and cultural practices coalesce. The concept of a micro-culture can bring together four main attributes of learning environments, namely, social embeddedness, real-worldness, identity formation, and normative. Construing learning environments in this way has likely important implications for the theory and practice of management learning and education, since a micro-culture is a complex, emergent phenomenon that is not necessarily controllable or transferable.
What kind of learning is required to bring us towards a more sustainable future? We argue that when behaviourally and technically complex issues intertwine, a collaborative social learning process that engages diverse actors in deep systems change is necessary. The learning required includes but overtakes debate, bringing organisations, individuals and communities into cycles of experiential, cumulative, ad hoc and opportunistic, yet systematic, learning. Current conceptualisations and approaches to learning have not been framed with the requisite level of integrated complexity given our sustainability challenges. This article introduces the action research approach of ‘learning history in an open system’ in the service of such learning. Updating the heretofore single-project focussed learning history, we present recent methodological developments for its use in open systems that support a joining up of projects and sites of endeavour to support deeper and accumulating systems’ learning. We explore the links to learning literature drawing on developments in aesthetics and arts-based action research to suggest our approach is one useful way of responding to the more general challenge of scale that concerns action researchers.
In organisations, learning is generally seen as a dynamic, collective and often conscious process that occurs by reflecting on real work experiences. In this article, we discuss these assumptions about learning in the context of work by presenting a case study in the care for older people. The case illustrates that learning in and through work is predominantly an embodied and responsive phenomenon that usually occurs implicitly while acting. We argue that a learning perspective grounded in the worldview of enactivism encapsulates this pragmatic and embodied character of learning and at the same time provides a reality and language helpful in encouraging a critical attitude towards assumptions about learning in organisations. Understanding learning from an enactive point of view carries consequences for studying and organising learning within organisations. These are outlined within this article to challenge managers’ meanings of learning in health care and comparable settings and to encourage further dialogue on this issue.
In this article, we argue that management and business undergraduate students who are engaged in learning about leadership occupy a liminal space or state of between-ness. Drawing on anthropological conceptualisations of liminality in which those undergoing liminal rituals must grapple with symbolic monsters, we point to the experience of doubt and uncertainty as ‘monsters’ with which students must come to terms. We link this to scholarship that characterises dealing with uncertainty as a central element of leadership practice. Drawing on notions of ‘threshold concepts’, we suggest that students experience the monster of doubt as they progress in their learning experience and that there are a number of potential ways students might ‘think like a leadership scholar’. We set out some opportunities for leadership educators to engage students with threshold concepts as they seek to become familiar with ‘doubt’ as central to the study and practice of leadership. Applying a liminality framework to the understanding of threshold concepts helps identify threshold concepts as crucial to learning, infused with cultural assumptions and situated within an understanding of the student experience.
In this article, we engage empirically with the biopolitical nature of pedagogic practice in critical management education. We do so through considering the effects of employing literary fiction in an introductory management and organization module taught to master’s degree students in a UK business school. We see the deployment of fictional literature in teaching as a way of consciously intervening in this biopolitical predicament. By urging students to work with fictional literature that has been part of their personal past, we encourage them to develop a ‘care of the self’. In the analysis, we first discuss the pedagogic process of the module, reflecting on our own presumptions and behaviours. Second, on the basis of students’ assignments, we analyse the outcome of their learning. In the concluding discussion, we argue that the fact that critical management education is already biopolitical does not preclude the possibility for it to renew educational practice. We suggest that as a result of the potential for creative self-formation offered by the use of literary fiction, transformation of both students and educators is possible.
Previous studies on absorptive capacity focus either upon dyadic interorganizational constellations or upon an organization’s environment in general, thus neglecting other managerially relevant interorganizational constellations. Furthermore, despite significant advancements in our understanding, we still know little about the way absorptive capacity actually unfolds on an organizational level, as many studies predominantly take absorptive capacity as a quantitatively measurable phenomenon. We address these two shortcomings by following recent calls for a practice perspective on absorptive capacity. In particular, we reveal the choreography of knowledge absorption practices in an interorganizational network. Based on an empirical study in the semiconductor industry, we put forward the thesis that this can be achieved by congregating, that is, repeatedly exchanging face-to-face ideas at network-wide venues such as conferences or workshops. We illustrate how a lead firm in this industry carefully choreographs congregating, which helps the organization acquire knowledge from network partners and utilize the knowledge internally. Herein, we contribute a practice perspective on how to influence organizational absorptive capacity when engaging with an interorganizational network as a distinctive organizational form. A practice lens also entails being sensitive to the political dimension of absorptive capacity. Moreover, choreographies of bundles of absorptive capacity-relevant practices represent a concept to inform future research.
An important aim of critical management education is to stand in critique of mainstream educative practice, while engaging in ideas of new possibility and proposals for alternative action. Opportunities for critique can be opened by identifying paradox or the appearance of contradiction in the imperatives underpinning conventional approaches to management and management education. One such contradiction is the "sustainability paradox": our dominant approaches to wealth creation degrades both the ecological systems and the social relationships upon which their very survival depends. In this article, we offer, from within a critical management education frame, an alternative vision of management education as a progressive educative practice: one that embraces our embeddedness in the natural world and our social relation to one another. We conclude with ideas for redirecting the contextual, organizational, curricular, and pedagogical dimensions of management education toward such a vision.
This article focuses on the co-construction of a reflexive practice in a public health-care organisation. We study how the reflexive methods of applied drama and theatre facilitate ‘collective voicing’, specifically in the context of dental health-care professionals’ reflections on their own practices in perplexed situations. Our emphasis is on research-based theatre as a way by which the employees of an organisation can become more reflexive in their relationship with customers. This study makes use of the research-based theatre approach, illustrating how various voices – even those of young customers – are expressed, heard and discussed in order to interpret the status quo of perplexed situations and relationships and to imagine possible choices for disentangling the perplexity. Our study demonstrates the value of post-Boalian applied drama and theatre practices and presents a path for collective voicing as a learning process enabling reflexive practice in organisations.
This article responds to calls for research into the production of time-space in organizations – in particular, it does so as a way of synthesizing the diverse ways of thinking in the existing organizational learning literature. This is achieved by drawing upon Lefebvrian-informed research into spatial–temporal rhythms, enabling the investigation of the rhythmic production and reproduction of time-spaces from a 12-month ethnography of a UK Management Team. This rhythmic approach also augments extant spatial and temporal organizational research. It reveals how learning involves contrary spatial–temporal experiences – highlighting the interplay of rhythms, which raises reflexive implications for both managers and researchers.
This article presents the findings of a participative action research project into how arts-based inquiry can revitalise equality and diversity organisational practices. We demonstrate that the arts-based methodologies introduced enabled participants to explore the meanings they brought to equality and diversity work, by creating a liminal space for learning. We illustrate our findings through an exploration of how participants engaged with the inquiry, the learning about equality and diversity that took place in the workshops and the challenges and opportunities of translating this into change practice in the workplace. The article’s originality lies in its analysis of poetic writings, dreams and visual artefacts created in the context of participative inquiry. Engaging with tacit knowledge extended understanding of the contribution that arts-based, aesthetic inquiry can bring to organisational practice, and more specifically towards restoring the transformative potential of organisational practices to promote equality and diversity.
Drawing on the existing theorizing of organizational learning from a radical perspective, this article attempts to problematize such notion of learning and position it within the existing organizational contexts informed by divergent types of rationality. The study scrutinizes these frameworks with a view to reflect on the potentiality for radical learning to occur within them. In this vein, the conceptual analysis of non-technical and non-marginal notions, namely, ‘spirituality’, ‘luck’ and ‘wisdom’, in different modes of rationality is conducted. This article demonstrates that since the conceptual inclusiveness is entailed by the specificity of sensemaking mechanisms, which these modes employ, the analysed notions can be approached as their litmus paper. The functionalist rationality types are found to be incommensurate with exigencies of the radical context for learning. In pursue of the conducive area for radical learning, the notions of unmanaged organization and the technology of foolishness provide the theoretical frame for the study, and their joint sensemaking context is discussed using examples. This unmanaged space driven by inclusive foolishness is recognized as one that enables the liminal sensemaking processes conducive for radical learning to occur.
In a contemporary business environment where change is often regarded as continuous, the ability of people or organizations to be able to successfully adapt and respond to change is key. Change often involves not only the learning of new behaviours, ideas, or practices but also giving up or abandoning some established ones. Despite both these elements generally being important to change, academic focus on processes of abandoning or giving up established knowledge and practices, that is, unlearning, is lacking. This conceptual article draws on a range of literature to suggest that the process of individual unlearning may have particular features. The review defines the concept of unlearning, differentiates between two different types of individual unlearning, and suggests that each type of individual unlearning may have its own distinctive features and dynamics. This article builds from this insight through developing a typology, which distinguishes between four types of individual unlearning. It concludes with an agenda for future empirical research to examine and validate the concepts presented.
We critique and extend theory on organizational sensemaking around three themes. First, we investigate sense arising non-productively and so beyond any instrumental relationship with things; second, we consider how sense is experienced through mood as well as our cognitive skills of manipulation based on standard categories, frames or narratives and third, we consider sense being governed by exposure to unknown possibility rather than retrospective assessment. We set these themes in the context of the study of Heidegger and discuss the implications of our theorization for further sensemaking research by revisiting Weick’s seminal reading of Norman Maclean’s book surrounding the tragic events of a 1949 forest fire at Mann Gulch, USA.
Our research extends debates regarding technology use for knowledge sharing through examining how smartphone photography mediates a complex, unpredictable distributed work practice: responding to operational problems within a transport system. We offer a narrative analysis examining how smartphone photography may (partially) bridge physical distance between managers and engineers, and how sharing images establishes ‘truths’ and provides ‘evidence’. We further explore the challenges engineers face as the demand for images impacts the acceptance of their verbal accounts. We conclude that smartphone photography prompts the negotiation of new narratives of knowledge sharing, narratives that highlight tensions around the role and status of the digital image. With the increasing availability of smartphones at work, and an emerging interest in the visual in organisational studies, this research offers both practical and theoretical insights.
Management education programs increasingly use group work as a tool for developing teamwork knowledge and skills. A critical factor identified in prior research to influence group performance in student groups is goal-setting. We test in a sample of 37 groups the effect of group goal configurations and goal difficulty on group performance. We show that goal distance (as the distance between the lowest goal in the group and the rest of individual goals) has a positive impact on group performance. Moreover, we provide empirical evidence for an inverted U-shape association between goal difficulty and group performance. Therefore, our results question the linearity assumptions on the relation between goal difficulty and group performance and open new research directions in group goal-setting.
Recent work contends that management education provides an important space for managers’ identity work. However, it is also recognised that much of what is currently offered constrains rather than enables managers’ identity work. Against this background, I present material which provides important practical possibilities to managers for more realistic and helpful forms of identity work, and theoretically, also add to the development of a more nuanced understanding of managerial identity work processes. Drawing on interviews with a range of managers, I offer rare empirical evidence, which illustrates the ordinarily suppressed emotional struggles of the mismatch between social identities of manager and self-identities. In this way, I contribute to current theoretical offerings to demonstrate the centrality of emotions to processes of becoming. In turn, I propose that exploration of these emotions offers management educators important possibilities for facilitating managers’ identity work.
Using a sample of 70 global pharmaceutical firms, this study examined how cross-national knowledge affected the creation of exploitative (incremental) and explorative (breakthrough) types of technological innovations both of which are necessary for organizational ambidexterity. We found that there were significant differences for effectively using cross-national knowledge, which reinforces the need for organizational ambidexterity. The data used to study cross-national knowledge consisted of patent analyses of commercialized products, which is a step further than most studies that stop at just the patents themselves. Through the use of double-log regression analysis, the results suggested a notable conclusion: while the sourcing of intrafirm, cross-national knowledge enhanced explorative or breakthrough innovation, it did not enhance the development of exploitative or incremental innovation. The article concludes with managerial implications for managing ambidexterity.
Stories are ubiquitous in organizations and play an important role in all aspects of organizing. Patient Stories have come to prominence in health care in a number of different forms. In Wales, they have been used as one element of a large-scale organizational development program, the 1000 Lives Campaign. The purpose of the Patient Stories was to bring about learning and organizational change at the board level. Using Lakoff and Johnson’s theory of metaphor, I deconstructed the Patient Stories being presented to the board. I found that the stories were being used as a vehicle to present the Uniqueness Story to the board. The Uniqueness Story highlighted the value and worth of nursing and was a means of attracting and maintaining resources. This led to the understanding that there was a story behind the stories that can be explained using the original theory of metaphor. The implication is that if the Uniqueness Story is presented through the vehicle of the Patient Story, it assumes the validity of an accepted truth claim.
In this article, we suggest that management research constitutes a field of practice that is made practically intelligible through embodied enactment. This relies on imagination, constructing modes of belonging within communities of management research practice. Undergraduate students constitute a significant audience towards whom these self-presentational performances are directed. Our analysis is based on findings from four UK business schools where students participated in a free drawing and focus group exercise and were asked to visualize a management researcher. Through identification of three dominant animal metaphors of management research practice, we explore the symbolic relations whereby a prevailing image of the management researcher, as untouchable, solitary, aggressive, competitive and careerist, is socially constructed. We argue that this competitive, self-interested impression of research is detrimental to ethical, critically reflexive, reciprocal and participatory modes of research, and to the development of management research as a broadly inclusive system of social learning.
Much has been debated about the perceived relevance/irrelevance of business schools in addressing business needs with some suggesting that academic research is not applicable to practice. We contribute by claiming the debate is itself somewhat misplaced and the real task of business schools is to instil the art of ‘relevating’ the seemingly irrelevant in order to prepare managers for the challenges they face. Paradoxically, we contend that in relentlessly pursuing scholarship, academics can make a valuable contribution to practice by offering counterintuitive viewpoints that challenge business mindsets. Ironically, value-adding contributions to practice are best made when academia resists the seductive tendency to capitulate to the immediate demands of the client. For it is only by challenging conventional wisdom and expectations and thereby creating dissonance in the minds of managers, that new and unthought avenues of action may be opened up for consideration. We illustrate this by examining the experiences of a partnership between a multinational corporation and a university in the United Kingdom where the executive education programme was carried out using action learning techniques while encouraging reflexivity in practice.
Tensions and struggles are a usual occurrence when knowledge ‘to get the job done’ needs to be produced at the boundaries of different disciplines and skills. Yet, power struggles have been often overlooked, and a deeper understanding of power dynamics in, and between, communities of practice is needed. An ethnographic study of the work practices of a digital media agency is utilised as a basis for the conceptual work of addressing tensions and struggles evident in creative design work. The approach developed here reactivates the critical and relational perspectives of communities of practice theory rearticulating it with the insights of Laclau and Mouffe’s site ontology. This study offers a transformative redefinition of communities of practice’s existing theoretical kit. It also shows how creative abrasions are situated in the broader politics of management and organisation of creative design work.
This commentary results from a 2-day Critical Management Studies workshop at the Academy of Management that we organized in the summer of 2010, entitled "Whose business? Business, ethics, and society in critical management studies". It summarizes ideas presented by a variety of scholars who were actively grappling with questions and challenges of contemporary management education, specifically with its role in bringing about social change while introducing Madeline Toubiana’s article, "Business pedagogy for social justice?" by way of example. Extending from the insights emerging from in this article, we briefly discuss the importance of reflecting on the values of social justice that we hold as business school academics, in order to begin to imagine the possibilities of the classroom as an arena in which we can inspire social change. We argue that academics ought to be reflexive about the values of social justice that they espouse, and that they ought to vigorously and substantively integrate these values into management education, such as through their infusion into curricula. Returning to Paulo Friere’s (1970) idea of "conscientization," we propose that business school academics should use the classroom as a forum in which to develop what Friere calls "critical understanding." In sum, these two points present discursive sources of agency to move toward redressing the systems of institutional constraints, which are currently thwarting business school academics engagement with social justice as identified in Toubiana’s article.
This article attends to the call for research on the often neglected spatial and temporal dynamics of organizational life. In particular, we examine the ways in which aspects of space and time facilitate or hinder learning and knowledge sharing in organizations. We draw on conceptual tools derived from work influenced largely by Henri Lefebvre to illustrate how a spatial–temporal lens throws new light on the problem of learning and knowledge sharing across organizational communities. We examine these dynamics in a qualitative study with four high-technology engineering companies in the energy conversion and automation and aerospace sectors. Building on a situated learning perspective, we argue that a spatial and temporal perspective contributes to our understanding of processes of identity construction and the power relations that influence access to forms of participation and learning across organizational communities.
Previous research has examined learning from crises. However, comparatively neglected is the analysis of learning during such events. This explorative case study reports findings on how learning took place during the outbreak of Escherichia coli in Germany in 2011, which resulted in 53 fatalities. We identify three broad communities: (a) public agencies, (b) research institutions and hospitals and (c) opposition parties and non-governmental organizations. We discuss their conflicting interests in the face of the unfolding crisis, and we explore how their (re)actions and sensemaking affected the way the outbreak progressed. By conceptualizing the crisis as an epistemic object, we show how transepistemic sensemaking both enabled and constrained learning. The crisis, as an epistemic object, is a contested terrain, and each epistemic group’s commitments influenced the trajectory of their responses, demanding a processual perspective to capture the constantly realigning ways actors interpret and react upon the crisis. This study demonstrates how learning during a crisis may thus be transitory since it is hampered by a ‘war for meaning’. This ‘war’ potentially also prevents significant learning subsequent to a crisis, as institutional and epistemic commitments are quickly reformed and transepistemic engagements are closed.
This article explores the scholarly processes involved in management learning and education. Drawing on a practice turn in social sciences, the article develops current thinking on epistemologies of practice, Aristotle’s intellectual virtue of phronesis and Shotter’s social poetics to suggest a scholarship of practice. Building upon Shotter’s interpretation of Wittgenstein’s later work and the literatures on mindfulness, it is argued that such a scholarship of practice is centred on deliberative attention rather than knowledge. An account of a 30-month action research project is then used to illustrate a scholarship of practice, in which three domains of attention are identified: an engagement with ideas, a practice of inquiry and a navigation of relations.
This article adopts a sensemaking perspective to explore changing and learning in an organization that has been making the same product for more than 175 years. Using an insider/outsider methodology, this case provides evidence of dynamic, ongoing processes of changing and learning across time, albeit without formal change intervention. We conclude that organizational becoming, learning and change are found in the juxtaposing of order and disorder, frames of past learning and cues of present action. This balance between the past and emerging present is advanced as a way of seeing organizational learning, which is sensitive to process and time.
Most extant research on charismatic leadership has an essentialist orientation that characterises it as leader behaviour, leader communication or follower dependency. Our approach is more discursively oriented. To research charismatic leadership, we used aesthetic narrative positivism, which undertook utilitarian as well as critical method. We examined followers’ implicit narratives of their lived experiences of charismatic leadership in organisational settings. We examined metaphors for this experience. Most respondents identified with positive affect, a form of love story; a minority experienced negative affect, especially anger; and some experienced both positive and negative emotions. We posit that if one adopts a certain identity within the context of a dramatic narrative, one might be attributed with charismatic qualities by followers. In this way, we suggest that charismatic leadership might be less a gift from God and more a ‘gift from followers’.
As export education is destined to be one of the new growth industries, an entrepreneurship course designed in the United Kingdom is exported to China. We reflect on the transplantation of entrepreneurship theory. Knowledge as it travels becomes decontextualised, but by relying on actor–network theory, we find that knowledge multiplies. Students in China were able to contextualise knowledge to fit with local circumstances. Relying on a single case study, narratives were shared by Chinese students exposed to the same entrepreneurship course. We identified artefacts, people, institutions and relationships in social-networks translating student realities of learning entrepreneurship. Their narratives revealed translation to be rooted in power struggles and historical and familial constructs. Contrary to the expectations of previous studies, there may be no need for teachers to contextualise course content. Students are capable of doing this. Teachers can therefore trust in local translation.
We put forward a practice perspective on absorptive capacity. We illustrate this by network congregating, i.e. repeatedly exchanging face-to-face ideas at interorganizational venues such as conferences, which Intel Corporation attends as a leading member of the semiconductor industry network SEMATECH. Hereby, our findings contribute to the discourse by highlighting the role of practices, in particular against the organization-network nexus. Network congregating is carefully choreographed by Intel and helps the organization to acquire knowledge from network partners and utilize the information internally. Moreover, Intel disseminates information among the network partners by means of congregating in order to influence the knowledge evaluation processes of the network. We suggest tentatively that this reciprocal flow of information at the organization-network nexus is also worth considering, as not only Intel, but also other dominant network partners try to influence the value attribution of new knowledge (e.g. technological trends) among other network partners.
Like business executives and politicians, academics form part of the super-mobile population of the global north. Their freedom to travel, which entails a freedom from certain local obligations, is not always voluntary but part and parcel of professional expectations and is subject to peer and managerial evaluation. In this article, we argue that there are a lot of structural and institutional constraints built into academic mobility. The original notion of intellectual detachment and academic freedom has developed into a demand for social and moral detachment by the ever-growing circuit of international ‘visibility’ as celebrated at international conferences. It excludes all those whose attachment to persons or causes requires bodily presence, and such an exclusion transforms the contents and values of academic knowledge – not for the better, we believe.
Management learning has traditionally straddled the parallel universes of human resource development and management education, between which there has been little dialogue or research. The article explores their relationship both conceptually and through a pedagogic example. It is noted how key elements of learning in organizations, such as training and development, have co-evolved with changes in management practice. Here, we consider the contribution of what has come to be termed ‘human resource development’ to shaping management, including its influence upon the education of managers. We illustrate this issue by reflecting upon the delivery of a human resource development–inflected core module on a Master of Business Administration programme in a UK Business School. Difficulties encountered by students in grasping the relevance and value of this module are seen to parallel difficulties in formulating human resource development in a manner that does not reduce it to a set of tools and techniques used to identify and manage aspects of the ‘human resource’ targeted for ‘development’. By exploring management education and human resource development, we assess whether they are natural partners or uneasy bedfellows in the contemporary development of managerial practice.
This article contributes to the debate on work-based e-learning, by unpacking the notion of ‘the learning context’ in a case where the mediating tool for training also supports everyday work. Users’ engagement with the information and communication technology tool is shown to reflect dynamic interactions among the individual, peer group, organizational and institutional levels. Also influential are professionals’ values and identity work, alongside their interpretations of espoused and emerging symbolic meanings. Discussion draws on pedagogically informed studies of e-learning and the wider organizational learning literature. More centrally, this article highlights the instrumentality of symbolic interactionism for e-learning research and explores some of the framework’s conceptual resources as applied to organizational analysis and e-learning design.
Practice-based studies have progressed thinking in the knowledge, learning and innovation fields by emphasizing the continual negotiation of social structures and meaning through participation. Yet, only a few contributions discuss how participation and learning are affected by broader structures. This is an inconsistency in the understanding of ‘situated’ learning where learning through participation is restricted to the immediate community involved in a social activity. We aim to address this inconsistency by investigating the effects of the interplay between institutional and organizational structures on patterns of participation and, in turn, learning outcomes. We develop a framework of situated learning in multinational enterprises, and explore its value through a comparative case study of the introduction of new practices in four subsidiaries of two multinational enterprises in two contrasting national institutional systems.In contrast to older views, our case findings suggest that while the interplay between institutional context and organizational structure indeed matters, it does not determine collective participation and situated learning as actors can actively create solutions when structural conditions and institutioanl demands are less aligned.
This article questions how employers view and evaluate the role of learning and training for older workers in light of the increasing number of older workers in the labour market. Learning and training opportunities could be utilised to respond to the ‘extending working lives’ agenda, but interviews with employers suggest that this is not being done. A small number of human resource professionals, managing directors and owners were interviewed to determine what learning opportunities were offered to their older workers and how these workers’ experience could be utilised better. Respondents implicitly accepted that there were few learning opportunities for older workers and suggested that they expected this group of workers to take on additional roles in making learning and experience available to younger colleagues. Dichotomies in employers’ views emerged in that they differentiated between groups of workers and their need for skills, experience and the ‘right’ attitudes.
Missing in the organizational learning literature is an integrative framework that reflects the emotional as well as the cognitive dynamics involved. Here, we take a step in this direction by focusing in depth over time (five years) on a selected organization which manufactures electronic equipment for the office industry. Drawing on personal construct theory, we define organizational learning as the collective re-construal of meaning in the direction of strategically significant themes. We suggest that emotions arise as members reflect on progress or lack of progress in achieving organizational learning. Our evidence suggests that invalidation – where organizational learning fails to correspond with expectations – gives rise to anxiety and frustration, while validation – where organizational learning is aligned with or exceeds expectations – evokes comfort or excitement. Our work aims to capture the key emotions involved as organizational learning proceeds.
This article introduces a confluent method of evaluation from the qualitative paradigm that encourages student feedback via a sensory route, namely, participant-produced drawings. Through a phenomenological qualitative inquiry carried out at a UK university where the use of participant-produced drawings were piloted, three areas for consideration with regards to enhancing the evaluation of undergraduate provision in management education were identified: (a) giving students space to emotionally respond to their learning, (b) acknowledging the temporal aspect of student learning and (c) offering students the opportunity to set and shape the evaluative agenda. Participant-produced drawing is offered as a method of evaluation that is appreciative of the cognitive-affective learning debate and the rapidly changing nature of higher education practice. We argue that this method provides rich evaluative data on the affective nature of learning that is not as easily explored by traditional, quantitative methods.
The purpose of this article is to present a praxis-based pedagogy in the classroom teaching of spirituality and work to working adult students. The article provides an overview of classroom scholarship that illuminates activities for transformational learning and emphasizes the importance of four key dialogues: self-dialogue, dialogue with co-workers, dialogue with classmates, and dialogue with the teacher. Such dialogues provide a pathway through the challenges of teaching/learning about spirituality and work by making available an open space for meaning-making and critique around spiritual experiences of work. The author’s metalogue throughout provides a parallel dialectical structure relating to the core content; a faithful demonstration to walk the talk of praxis.
Although learning as a dialogic process involving critical self-reflexivity is well recognized, enacting management learning in and through research dialogue with participants has been given limited attention. This article fuses, from related research, relational social constructionist understandings of knowing, learning and research to produce a framework of research as a dialogic process of learning. The framework emphasizes the importance of being ‘struck’ for participant-centred self-reflexivity and management learning. The framework is illustrated by drawing on empirical material from a research project involving five managers’ participation in a set of three research interviews. The research highlights the temporal and historical features of being ‘struck’ and the effect of recall in stimulating self-reflexivity and learning. The article also considers how participants and researchers may seize striking moments by illustrating direct and indirect ways of talking and acting which signal being ‘struck’.
What needs to happen in business schools to create a space for social justice? In this article I explore business faculty members’ perspectives on social justice as a means of illuminating the ideological and institutional forces affecting pedagogy and examining the future for social justice within business schools. Participants identified three hegemonic forces driving business programs: profit-driven business ideologies, the particular character of MBA programs, and bias toward quantitative research in business programs. These forces negated the ways in which faculty engaged with social justice concepts and the ways in which they could teach and research within their respective business schools. I review these hegemonic forces and suggest that in order for social justice to be realized within business schools there has to be institutional redesign which could, potentially, be triggered by disruptive institutional work.
This article contributes to understandings of the experiential nature of leadership learning by drawing attention to the role of disruption as an organizing influence on women’s leadership learning, and by generating insights for leadership teaching. Examining leadership learning as an experiential process, we present the development of a typology intended to act as a summary of literature focusing on women’s experiences of leadership learning. Informed by our experiences of developing and using the typology as a teaching aid in two leadership development interventions we progress through a cycle of critical reflections to present a reflexive analysis of the typology’s performative effect and how it brings into being representations of women’s leadership. Moving from initial observations to deeper reflections the analysis draws attention to how disrupting pervades women’s learning of leadership, thus extending our understanding of gender’s influence on organizing learning experiences. The article considers how we, as educators, might forefront disrupting as a process in leadership learning interventions by re-positioning instruments, such as the typology, to problematize and deconstruct leadership learning. We conclude by proposing a reflexive process in the classroom that takes the form of a critical dialogue to enable educators and participants to de-construct their experience.
Although experiential learning has been widely discussed in relation to the teaching of corporate social responsibility, the socially mediated and discursive nature of experiential learning approaches to corporate social responsibility has been either neglected or given only cursory coverage in the literature. Considering this gap, I problematise corporate social responsibility education within the axioms of managerialism, arguing that it should also allow business students to critically evaluate, analyse and question the basic premises underlying contemporary business practices. Using an action research approach, I explore the possibilities and challenges of using hybrid problem-based learning to help business students engage in critically reflexive processes and, thus, the social construction of corporate social responsibility meanings. Drawing on discourse analysis, I illustrate two central discursive patterns that characterise the struggle over corporate social responsibility meanings in a series of courses implemented in the business curriculum of a Nordic university between the years 2007 and 2010. The findings offer empirical support for several key arguments in the debate over corporate social responsibility education.
This article explores knowledge-sharing tendencies among individuals in a UK project-based organization. While the knowledge management literature extensively considers the significant impact of relationships and trust on sharing knowledge, the underlying reasoning behind individual choices to share knowledge and expertise largely remains an underexplored area. Bourdieu’s conception of the habitus is used as an alternative tool to interpret individual dynamics and their propensity for sharing knowledge given their personal relationships. Data are drawn from in-depth interviews conducted across the organization and presented as a narrative indicative of relationship dynamics of individual actors. The findings suggest that individual predisposition towards knowledge sharing is influenced by experiences in sustained relationships, coupled with awareness of knowledge sources, expectations of reciprocity in relationships, and acceptance into social groups. Particularly, the predisposing nature of the habitus serves as guide to location and utilization of knowledge sources as well as on choices to share personal knowledge.
This article introduces a new method for leadership development: co-constructed coaching. The terrain of executive coaching is outlined and contrasted with co-constructed coaching that draws on the research method of co-constructed autoethnography. In particular the relative merits of directive versus non-directive leadership development interventions are examined, along with the issue of multiple agendas in coaching/research relationships in this context, and the implications, both positive and negative, of having a highly informed active partner in the leadership learning process. The paper makes a contribution to management learning by presenting co-constructed coaching as a credible and potentially beneficial alternative to executive coaching by enabling a critically reflexive dialogue.
This article contributes to the organizational learning literature by providing empirical evidence of how coaching enables the translation from individual learning into collective learning, i.e. enacting behaviours, enacting a coaching approach and embedding collective learning processes. It draws on interview data gathered in two law firms wherein learning was the result of executive coaching interventions to pinpoint the mechanisms by which individual and collective learning is interconnected, thereby heeding a call for a more detailed understanding of the mechanisms of learning presented in Management Learning (Bapuji and Crossan, 2004). This enables us to understand the role that coaching plays in the translation from individual to collective learning.
Errors are an inevitable by-product of human labour. Therefore, organizational learning from errors should be regarded as a strategic goal of HR development. Despite a large number of studies on organizational learning from errors, a thorough understanding of error-related learning processes at work is still missing. In the present article, we present the results of a literature review that was used to derive an integrated model of organizational learning processes in the consequence of errors and to develop the questionnaire to assess the error-related learning climate in organizations. The questionnaire was evaluated on a sample of 383 employees of two companies. Confirmatory factor analyses support the suggested structure of error-related learning climate. Further analyses stress the relevance of constructive error handling in organizations by revealing substantial links between error-related learning climate and the effectiveness of error learning, self-perceptions and error-related behaviours of team members, as well as group cohesion and certain aspects of team performance.
The research process and production of scientific knowledge has traditionally been understood to be based on abstract analysis and intellectual capacity rather than physical and emotional resources, promoting an understanding of academic practice as a detached, non-emotional and objective activity. Lately, several researchers have bemoaned this lack of recognition of the bodiliness of our work. In this study, we attempt to address this gap by exploring and conceptualizing some of the ways in which the embodied dimensions of academic research practices are intertwined with the articulation of ideas in the writing of scientific texts. In order to pursue our aim, we draw on experiences explicated through an autoethnographic approach, including the generation of personal narratives and in-depth conversations with 18 researchers from different universities in Europe and the US. The article contributes to the sociology of science and academic literacy literature, by conceptualizing the interconnectedness between sensuous and discursive understandings in this context. With the advancement of this theoretical approach, we illuminate how scientific practice is bound up with emotional, embodied, material, social, political and institutional forces. We also challenge the dichotomy between ‘knowledge work’ or theoretical tasks on the one hand, and ‘body work’ or physical labor on the other.