The Social Complexity of Organizational Learning: The Dynamics of Learning and Organizing

This article examines the social complexity of Organizational Learning. We built on and seek to extend recent conceptualizations of Organizational Learning that emphasize the emergent and fluid nature of learning in organizations, by drawing on some of the principles of Complexity Science. We selectively introduce two sets of principles of complexity that provide further richness to our understanding of Organizational Learning as a social complex process. The two sets of principles are ‘schemas–diversity’ and ‘interaction–interdependence’. We discuss the main characteristics of these principles of Complexity Science and show they can help us understand aspects of the social complexity of Organizational Learning. Our analysis shows that one of the main contributions of the Complexity Science perspective to understanding Organizational Learning is that it reveals more clearly the tensions that underpin learning in social contexts. We provide a re-conceptualization of tensions as revealing elasticity and not only conflict. We argue that Organizational Learning as a source of tensions keeps the organization in tension, which allows us to better capture the dynamics of learning and organizing. We conclude by outlining some issues that future OL research would address if OL is conceptualized as a dynamic complex process.


About Giorgio Bertini

Research Professor. Founder Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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