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Completed research programsInnovation and Organization

Completed research programs

Research Unit: Innovation and Organization

The Annotated Bibliography of Organizational Learning and Knowledge Creation

Management and Organizational Learning
Entries selected by Janine Nahapiet and John Stopford
Management is a broad field that embraces many of the approaches and concepts that are central to the underlying disciplines. The recent developments in the general field of organizational learning are no exception to this plurality of scope. To avoid unnecessary duplication, therefore, the selection of entries is closely related to those appearing in other sections of the bibliography.
We have concentrated on literature that has had the greatest impact on scholars working on the processes and practices of business strategy and managerial behavior, as measured by citations. In many cases, especially for the earlier works, we have also been concerned to trace through lines of thought, so that we could recognize seminal contributions through indirect reference. We have ignored the large literature of managerial "how-to" books. These can be valuable in making the ideas accessible to practitioners (and thus encourage further organizational learning), but they are primarily recapitulations of others' ideas. Our concern has been to identify the pioneers and creators of the ideas in the first place.
The combination of strategy and managerial behavior gives a strong bias towards the sociological aspects of management. This bias reflects the concern within the general field of management to try to understand organizations as human systems and to use the notion of strategy as one important way to provide purpose and direction to the enterprise. For the purposes of this work, emphasis is placed on how strategic thinking affects how managers choose from among alternative options for future behavior. The complementary concepts of market structures influencing strategy and of positioning within segments of existing markets as the primary choice for managers are alluded to in the economics section of the bibliography. Here the emphasis is on the work and role of the manager in adapting to and also changing the status-quo. In other words we concentrate on those aspects of management that require a process of change and learning.
Much of the literature on management in general has made tacit assumptions about the existence of knowledge as a competitive resource and about learning as a means to outpace rivals in the market. Consequently, we interpreted our role in this collective effort as requiring us to take a broad view of learning and include references on knowledge as well. We regard this as an important choice, for the two literatures have emerged separately with little cross-referencing. However, the two fields have many of the same implications for management and, we judge, need to be taken together.
To provide a broad representation of the richness of the work across so many dimensions of what is generally meant by management while keeping within the space allocated, we have had to make some arbitrary choices. We have included one or two works by some scholars, such as Argyris and Schon, March and Nonaka, who have made significant contributions in a series of publications. Readers can quickly grasp the importance of the stream of work once they have read a key entry. We have also chosen to highlight particular classics, such as Burns and Stalker's The Management of Innovation that framed dynamic models of organizational evolution in terms of interlocking social systems and hinted at processes of organizational learning without being precise about the details. Similarly, Penrose's The Theory of the Growth of the Firm was one of the first to identify knowledge as a specific source of competitive advantage and is widely regarded as the foundation of what has come to be known as the resource-based view of the firm.
In the listings that follow, there is a good sprinkling of review articles (for instance, Levitt & March; Dodgson) that provide a definition of the field either from the perspective of a particular discipline, or (like Easterby-Smith) from the synthesis of aspects of many discipline approaches. Not surprisingly, these reviews give quite different emphases. Taken together, however, they extend the range of approach we can address in this bibliography. They have also allowed us to include a few important works that are predominantly about other subjects, but that have important contributions to make to the future learning agenda.
Just as Penrose could speak as an economist to suggest some major questions about how firms must learn if they are to grow, so Hampden-Turner speaks as a psychologist to inquire how individuals learn by trying to resolve dilemmas. Similarly, Beer approaches the issues from the perspective of cybernetics; Hamel and Prahalad from strategy; Polanyi from philosophy; Schein from culture and leadership; Weick from psychology; and so on. Ghoshal and Bartlett in The Indiviualized Corporation are primarily concerned to advance a new theory of the managerial processes that can cope with complexity. Yet they also make provocative inferences about how individuals' learning can be related to the learning of the group and how the speed of advance of both may be accelerated; a central concern for management in grappling with the problem of defining what investments and incentives are required in the future.

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Last change: 2002-05-10 17:58