Volume 8, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1384-6639
  • E-ISSN: 1569-9692
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The article critically investigates how conversations contribute to learning in organizations. Using the production technology lean thinking as a conceptual case study, the article investigates how, when learning is organized as a codification of aims and their cybernetic pursuit (such as achieving substantive goals; challenging these goals; or questioning the values lying behind these goals), there is a tendency to categorize activities whose meaning in use often remains opaque, tacit, and contested. The idea that meaning is found in use complicates organizational learning because, by implication, the conversion from tacit to explicit knowledge is far from complete and exploitable. The article discusses how knowledge emerges from the practiced and novel orientations of an agent enacting cognitive understandings in specific contexts. In doing so, it argues that from a learning perspective, organizational strategy should be as aware of how agents move within and between their understandings as it is of the desired outcomes of their actions. Using a Wittgensteinian analogy, this often unacknowledged aspect of learning concerns the recognition and use of sign-posts in language games, as distinct from any mimic-inducing instruction that one sign post (or set of sign-posts) should be followed in preference to any other. The concept ‘immanent learning’ is used to convey this grammatical aptitude as it is enacted in conversations. The implication is that where ‘theories’ of organizational learning look to reconcile the tension between the denotive power of organizational structures and the creative power of employees by instituting climates of ‘correct’ or ‘appropriate’ opinion, immanent learning dissolves this tension by articulating which are the requisite attitudes for the concept of learning to be meaningfully used.


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