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Learning Organisation

The next generation

European Consortium for the Learning Organisation in coperation with: KPC Groep

Ton Bruining (editor)

Learning Organisation
The next generation

Ton Bruining (editor)

Daniel Belet
Rudolph Bolsius
Richard Dealtry
Andrew Haldane
Ole Hinz
Jane McKenzie
ngela Lacerda Nobre
Hlya ztel
Ulrich Schweiker
Christine van Winkelen

European Consortium for the Learning Organisation
in cooperation with:
KPC Group
s Hertogenbosch - The Netherlands - 2009

Much care has been taken in the realisation of this edition. However, the authors,
editors and publisher do not accept responsibility for any incomplete or incorrect
information included. We appreciate any suggestions for corrections or improvements.

Learning Organisation
The next generation
Ton Bruining (editor)
Daniel Belet
Rudolph Bolsius
Richard Dealtry
Andrew Haldane
Ole Hinz
Jane McKenzie
ngela Lacerda Nobre
Hlya ztel
Ulrich Schweiker
Christine van Winkelen
European Consortium for the Learning Organisation & the authors
It is allowed to copy parts of this book for own purposes and for work purposes. In any
case the name of the author who was responsible for the parts copied should be
mentioned together with the reference to the source.
European Consortium for the Learning Organisation
KPC Group
Kooikersweg, 2
PO Box 482
5201 AL s-Hertogenbosch
The Netherlands
Tel.: +31 (0)736247517










Drs. Rudolph Bolsius

With this e-book we celebrate the inspiring efforts of all those practioners,
managers consultants and researchers and others, who concentrated on
an important issue of our modern knowledge dependent society:

How can we establish Learning Organisations and communities?

For more then 15 years ECLO has been facilitating the search for
answers to this question? ECLO is The European Consortium for the
Learning Organisation, a global organisation devoted to the sustainable
development of all aspects of learning and personal development in
organisations. This ebook represents the thinking and visioning, the
competencies and practices and the research and reflection of the ECLO
The contributions for this book have been simmering for a while. Most of
the chapters were written before the credit crisis of 2008. Nevertheless
we think that the insights presented here are worthwhile for organisations
and for the learning professionals supporting them. In the near future,
research must answer the question whether investments in building
Learning Organisations made these organisations more sustainable and
tenable to the financial crisis and its aftermath.

ECLO was established in 1993 as a not-for-profit organisation based in
Belgium. Its origins were founded in an IBM organised conference
together with the Catholic University of Leuven (KU Leuven), Belgium, on
Instructional Design held in 1991. The success of the conference
generated great interest in the establishment of a network that supported
corporate training and human development. After several meetings,
ECLO was born with IBM, K.U.Leuven, K.U. Nijmegen (NL) and CIMID
becoming prominent members of a small organisation. Led by its then
General Secretary, Pierre De Potter, an ex IBM executive, ECLO
organised its first annual conference in May 1994.
ECLO brings together leading academics, corporate executives and
consultants from different countries, institutions, cultures and
backgrounds, and provides them with unparalleled benchmarking and
networking opportunities. The members, who communicate through the
array of network activities, learn from each other, develop relationships
and use this knowledge to manage more effectively and increase their
competitive edge.
ECLO is dedicated to the promotion and development of the Learning
organisation concept in Europe.
ECLO currently has over 60 members who are actively involved in the
network, and through its network partners, hundreds of others throughout
the world. Among its members you will find universities, corporations,
SMEs, business schools, public organisations and independent

consultants. Although primarily a European organisation, with members

from 10 European countries, we also have members in America,
Australia, Russia and China.
ECLO derived much of its early influence from the concept of the
Learning Organisation and as other learning strategies developed, so
too did ECLO. Among its current membership can be found experts in
many other aspects of learning including management development,
knowledge management, e-learning, corporate universities, coaching and
mentoring, leadership, m-learning and VET. ECLO members participate
in the definition and the design of research and development
programmes, share in their expertise and experiences and benefit from
the results.
To learn more about ECLO, to find examples of the diversity of expertise
among ECLO members and to become an ECLO-member go to
"We have come to appreciate that within organisations, learning will
occur within business processes but it is extremely important to develop
internal and external Learning Networks to create and spread knowledge
and best practice."
Peter Matthews, Anglian Water (UK)
ECLO is a non-profit-making organi our research and consulting HRD
and OD activities."
Daniel Belet, Groupe Sup de Co, La Rochelle (FR)

"ECLO provides an ideal opportunity for aspiring Learning Organisations

to learn and share in a European context."
Ken Simmons, Rover Learning Business (UK)
ECLO provides its members with the opportunity to learn through synergy
between business and academic partners. And through a mutual
recognition of needs and a common identification of research projects to
share and explore with the network.
ECLO facilitates and actively encourages dialogue and partnerships
between the various membership groups. By joining ECLO you become
part of an international network. The diversity of the ECLO network
allows you to meet regularly with your peers to discuss, share and
benchmark your experiences.
ECLO provides the platform for exposure to new learning environments.
ECLO generates and disseminates knowledge throughout the network for
the mutual benefit of our membership. This ability to share allows for a
better understanding of the latest advances in management
development. We offer pragmatic learning events aiming at the
implementation of Learning Organisation principles.
ECLO has been created to provide an opportunity for business and
academic partners to:

Explore new ways for effective business development.

Identify new directions for business training and development.

Generate models and tools for implementation.


Deliver educational programs of high academic standards.

Strengthen effective learning and development in organisations.

ECLO is:

a Forum: for sharing initiatives and innovations.

an Observatory: for experiences and assessing them in terms of

quality and business outcomes.

a Laboratory: where Academics and Business partners jointly

design and implement R&D projects.

a Learning Facility: for those who want to know more about

Learning Organisations and to invest in learning activities.

We, the editors, like to thank everyone who participates in the ECLO
community and contributes to this vital, vibrant and productive
professional network.
We thank:

the participants in ECLO activities, their participation in

discussions, workshops, open space activities and reflective
moments lead to significant professional learning and knowledge

the keynote speakers, presenters and workshop leaders who

contributed to the ECLO events such as the annual conferences.
Their input triggered collective and individual learning activities

the authors without whom it would not have been possible to

produce this book

the members of the ECLO board for keeping the spirit alive.

dr. Ole Hinz, who initiated the book and brought together a lot of
material for this book.

KPC Group for making this e-book possible

Marc Alen, president of ECLO for his never lasting energy he puts
into the ECLO organisation.

Two more people should be called by name: Jim Jack and Birgitte
Casteur. Together they provide the ECLO network with their
administrative support and event management. Their support has been
indispensible. Thank you both!

Rudolph Bolsius, senior consultant and projectmanager at KPC

Group,vice president marketing of the International project Management
Association and member of the ECLO board



Dr. Ton Bruining

The credit crunch of 2008/2009 makes painfully clear that our economies,
our organisations, our employees and we ourselves need solid concepts
to develop humane and sustainable organisations. Organisations that will
facilitate people to think and to give them a right of say, that will
challenge people to cross borders and explore new frontiers and to
connect with others. Organisations no longer driven by greed, not
afflicted with short-sightedness, nor burdened by bureaucratic stupidity.
Learning organisations that will provide a glimmer of hope for a better
Although the concept of organisational learning has been around for
some time, it took a quantum leap towards becoming the managers
fashion of the nineties. Many organisations have already started the
journey towards becoming learning organisations.
While the thinking of organisational learning, as presented by leadership
thinkers such as Peter Drucker and James March, was due to the
acknowledgement that in order to increase future performance, not only
individuals, but also organisations have to learn, the Senge-concept of
the learning organisation was far more specific, stressing systems


thinking as the overall message. Senge changed the organisational

learning insight from a philosophy to a specific tool kit for managers.
As we all know by now, other management gurus, trends, and alluring
toolkits have entered and crowded the market since then, and in order to
be politically correct managers in the new millennium have to enter new
concepts regularly. Two qualities mark these concepts, explorative and
exploitative learning.

Explorative and Exploitative Learning

In 1991 March presented the distinction between explorative and
exploitative learning. By explorative learning he meant: search, risktaking, variation, experimentation, play, flexibility, discovery, and
innovation. By exploitative learning he meant: refinement, choice,
production, efficiency, selection, implementation, and execution. He
developed the thinking that in order to thrive, the companies have to keep
a balance between the two, and he already then pointed to the fact that
the return-on-investment horizon was shorter for exploitative than for
explorative learning, tempting managers to outbalance the first with the
second. The result of this imbalance was, he claimed, the risk of entering
an inappropriate state of equilibrium with nowhere to go or further
advance. The 2008/2009 credit crisis has shown that focusing on shortterm gains rather than long term value pushes economies,
organisations and citizens into an abyss.


Open systems
Scott 1992 differentiated between rational systems, natural systems, and
open systems. By rational systems he meant: Taylor and Fayol-like
engineer-thinking, the organisation as a machine with cause-effect
relations between its elements. By natural system he meant: the
organisation is an organism, with much more complexity and flexibility,
and striving to uphold itself as an individual creature focussing on the
internal processes of the system. And by open system he finally put the
weight on the dependence of the company on its external relations.
Since Scott, important thinking has been done in the field of the open
systems thinking with its focus on context dependence stressing the
emergent qualities of the dynamism between organisation and context. In
the aftermath of the 2008/2009 credit crunch we are inclined to look at
emergence, non-linearity, uncertainty, risk. We tend to believe that we
cannot invent, define and structure the future. Just as the sculptor cannot
create any sculpture out of a given block of marble. The block may reject
the original plan of the artist forcing him to change goal and plans. This
applies also to the learning organisation. Literature, research and
practice shows that the concept of the learning organisation has
differentiated and is developing as a frame in which many tendencies
The original concept of the learning organisation may need revitalisation.
This is what this book strives to realise: Learning organisation, the next

What will immediately appear when the reader sits down with this book,
is however, that the learning organisation is not anything. What can be
immediately recognised as common qualities, is that they are all
humanistic and they are all searching. We will develop this in the

Humanistic and Searching

The Learning Organisation is humanistic. - March has pointed to the
difficulties of learning. He has talked about wrong learning: to generalise
from very few examples. One could also however, talk about bad
To be worthwhile, learning has to be good. But how can we decide what
is good and bad? It seems that ECLO has a touchstone: does learning
enhance democratic, open thinking as opposed to totalitarian?
We know that democratic societies are richer than totalitarian, and we in
ECLO believe that democratic corporate cultures can better cope with
uncertainties and emergence than totalitarian cultures. However we see
every day that leaders trap themselves in authoritarian thinking and
action. More often than not, in order to preserve the structure requires
totalitarian tendencies. This tendency does not permit the abuse
resulting from openness and tolerance as found in a democratic culture
and thus smuggling in alternative power relations. The challenge of
tomorrow for organisational learning is then also to help organisations
and institutions to preserve and develop a sort of self-immunity that

hinders democratic and humanistic processes in the company in giving

room for totalitarian tendencies finding the balance between openness
and limit-setting.
The Learning Organisation is searching - You will find chapters that
explain the benefits of a certain way of working, but they should not be
seen as the one best way.
In our view there is no one best way as there is no final truth. There is
inspiration and commitment, hard work and sharing, in short: learning.
The concepts and methods presented are meant as inspiration, leaders
must always judge the concept against the context and make their own
choice. There is no silver bullet, there are only pit falls.

We here give examples of how the learning organisation understanding
has developed since the early nineties. We bring examples from
research, consultancy and business management. We are eagerly, we
hope we have succeeded, strive to bridge the ever-increasing gap
between managers and researchers managers listening only to fellowmanagers, and researchers writing only for other researchers. The
authors all participated in the ECLO network. ECLO is a development
forum for consultants, researchers and practitioners.
In the following there will be a short introduction to the sections and


Section 1 - Learning organisations and society

Thinking about change in organisations can not be independent of
thinking about what an organisation is. Change theory and practice is
intimately connected with organisation theory. And theory of organisation
is again intimately connected with thinking of society. We only need to
think of the need for change as experienced in different parts of the world
to see that. Look at the discussions about modernism and the
enlightenment period in European history compared to parts of the world
that have not gone through that, and may not feel that they miss that
In the first chapter: Developments in the Organisational Learning Market,
Ulrich Schweiker looks at the developmental paths of the organisational
learning (OL)-market. He predicts that there will be a boom in OLconsulting services during the next years. According to Schweiker, the
organisational learning consulting will not only be executed in the format
as we know it. We will see excellent OL-work detached from so-called
OL-consultants, in the hands of entrepreneurs, executives, and
managers and, indeed, every individual. We will experience specialised
OL-experts, but also many other consultants and advisers who will have
the title OL in their letterheads. We will see entrepreneurs initiating OLprocesses without even using the label - many of them not even knowing
the concept and idea. And we will experience an increasing demand in
the area beyond traditional companies, in the non-commercial, societal,
and in the political sphere.


Large scale projects in which the coping and mastering of complex

transformation is in the focus as well as smaller actions and activities
designed with the repertoire of OL - the creation and shaping of structure,
processes, and culture and coaching of the key players of the change
game - will have more emphasis on and give more meaning to corporate
life and society.
According to internal insight of one of the leading OL-consulting services
providers, by now successful projects are estimated to dedicate at least
15% of the whole (transformation) budget to such OL-activities. If any
change and transformation project spends less than that, chances are
high that it will fail.
In the second chapter: Organisational Learning and The Unsustainable
Lightness of Being, Angela Nobre argues that the current diversity of
approaches within OL is an advantage and that it exemplifies the fields
richness and its capacity to attract the attention of researchers from
different and interdisciplinary backgrounds. Nobre stresses the
importance of qualitative and ethnographic research methodologies.
They point to the intensification of the social perspective on
organisational learning. Nobre sees OL as tacit, occasioned through
experiences of the artefacts of the organisations culture that are part of
its daily work. And she sees learning as a social act of sensemaking.
She calls attention to the complexity of the reflexivity process that largely
extents the cognitive dimension and includes the hermeneutic process of
interpretation, intuition and imagination and she points at the emergence
of organisational learning literature based upon social learning theory that

grows out of a critique of OL- theories based upon individual learning

perspectives. Nobre developed a specific methodology that incorporates
these novelties from the social tradition of organisational learning and
that stresses the importance of social philosophy theory, the Semiotic
Learning Framework. This incorporates both a theoretical concept and an
applied method. The concept defines organisational learning as a
meaning-making collective process, embodied in the organisational
community and embedded in the organisational discursive practices. The
practical method is an artefact to be applied at small group level in order
to improve organisational social practices. This method is a learning
cycle, composed of four learning-steps. Research shows that the
application of the method induces a rise in awareness towards an
organisational learning phenomena.
Nobre argues that the question is not that of complementing an individual
based perspective on organisational learning with a social one. She
states that the idea of adding up more slices, more parts to the whole, in
a functional way, is misleading. Nobre recognises the central and
determining role of ontological instances from which all dynamism
emerges. She underlines the importance of practice, of communities, of
dialogue, of questioning and of searching related to the embodied and
socially embedded nature of all knowledge creation, learning and
meaning making. It is the recognition of this dynamic process that
enables a deeper understanding of the full potential of organisational
learning theory and practice. Furthermore she points out that the action
and thought possibilities of management and organisation theory have

been strongly influenced by modernist ideas such as rationalism and

utilitarism. Post modern thinking introduced the issues of complexity,
power, discourse and paradox and enabled therefore a more realistic
account of organisational reality. The value of concepts of OL, is its
constituting characteristic of bridging both formal and informal sides of
organisational reality.

Section 2 - Values and Principles

In this section focus will be on a level beyond the practitioners
immediate view. The authors look behind this towards basic ideas,
mental models and often unconscious action patterns that we normally
partly overlook, partly take for granted, and which determine the direction
of our immediate perceptions, decisions, and actions.
In the third chapter: A new learning oriented leadership paradigm to
facilitate the development of a second generation learning organisation,
Daniel Belet stresses the need for further evolution of the OL concept.
According to Belet, the first generation approaches of OL were limited,
partial and often not very successful. In fact, they only lead to superficial
or cosmetic changes within the organisations claiming to embrace this
change model with often no significantly better business performances
nor significant improvements but rather develop new management
problems. For Belet the main question is: how to develop a second
generation Learning Organisation (LO), which can successfully achieve
an in depth transformation of the whole organisation through new people
management and leadership practices in order to turn it progressively

into a true operating LO? In trying to bring about some answers to this
difficult question, his main point is that such a second generation LO,
must first, and above all, be inspired by another kind of leadership
paradigm. One that translates into a new learning oriented leadership
culture as well as specific daily leadership practices, focused on
fostering individual and collective learning dynamics. This leadership
model will have to be based on a spirit of trust and liberty as well as on
individual and team support and service. These are the key factors to
unleash the individual and collective energies and intelligence and to
facilitate more successful cooperation as well as increased efficiency,
innovations and performances of the organisation. In addition to a major
improvement to the present poor quality of the leadership in most
companies and organisations, this second generation LO, would also
permit to much better meet the growing expectations of our western
societies in terms of setting up more sustainable, responsible, ethical and
society friendly business organisations while maintaining the dynamism,
the creativity and the wealth creation process of the free market
economic system.
In the fourth chapter: The Corporate Universitys Role in Managing an
Epoch in Learning Organisation Innovation, the insight that organisations
are continuously on the edge of chaos brings Richard Dealtry to the
assumption that it is a feature of this epoch in learning management
whether that instability is managed effectively to become a force for


Dealtry puts forward the kinetic energy concept as a useful concept to

think about learning management. He states that one advantage in the
usage of the kinetic energy concept in the context of organisational
dynamics and renewal is that it highlights the idea that organisations are
all about being in constant motion and depend upon continuous proactive movement to have an effect. How that energy source is maintained
and directed to create movement is all important. If an energy source
created by the momentum of its employees at all levels, is allowed to
atrophy and approaches a state of standstill, the organisation impact
becomes inert and it will experience a reversal of energy in its dynamic
state with the resulting chaos.
To form a management culture and practice that emanates from the
concept of kinetic management requires bold initiatives by top
management around the area of managing self organising cell work that
is driven and re-shaped day-to-day. It implies a revolution in top
management style and capability i.e. a new brand of top management
leadership, servant leaders who hold high values and practice the art of
managing by evolving spiritual capital.
For Dealtry putting learning as a major multi part variable into an
econometric styled model gives management an effective decision
support framework for integrated strategic learning management. The
kinetic management model works in engendering the bespoke solutions
that are essential if organisations are to manage complexity and become
a self organising adaptive entity.

The fifth chapter: On Becoming an Organisational Learning Expert by

Ulrich Schweiker is a very personal account of a life interwoven with
learning and organisational learning. For Schweiker there seems to be a
counter-balance between his personal life and growth and his
professional development. On the one hand there have been many
career moves in his work life, a lot of leaving and joining periods, shifts of
focus, scope and depth. On the other hand he shared his private life for
more than a quarter century with his wife. For Schweiker it is obvious that
in a relatively young discipline like organisational learning, the ways the
pioneers have come to their role in the field are different. Since there
aren't any uniform education paths Schweiker provides an
autobiographical sketch with descriptions choices, milestones and
landscapes that can serve as suggestions, examples, and models,
triggering self-reflection, and maybe initiating a search and strive, longing
and desire for comparable experiences. Ulrich and his wife themselves
feel now challenged to find out the kind of legacy they want to leave
professionally, entrepreneurially, and personally.
In the sixth chapter: The Knowledge Ecosystem; A model for the Second
Generation Learning Organisation, Andrew Haldane develops an
alternative model for the LO. For many of us currently in the work force
our understanding of organisations , and how to manage them, has been
shaped by systems thinking, a recognition that organisations only make
sense when seen, not in isolation, but as open systems interacting with
their environment in much the same way as do biological organisms.


Haldane therefore seeks to revisit the open system model of the

organisation and to identify more explicitly the knowledge inputs,
processes and outputs. In his quest Haldane uses the structural hole
theory to point out that employees whose roles interface with a variety of
tasks and functions, and especially those who interface with the external
environment, are often best placed to be a focus for new thinking.
Organisations run the risk of becoming relatively closed systems in terms
of new knowledge creation. While organisations will have some ideas
and intellectual property which they need to jealously guard, they also
need to find opportunities to engage intellectually outside the
organisation. Open innovation may also, from time to time involve
actively seeking opportunities to import new technology or new thinking
from outside. Similarly, before abandoning new ideas apparently not
relevant to current core activities, organisations should be open to the
possibility of developing such thinking to the point where marketable
intellectual property, or spin outs that could realise new market
opportunities may become a realistic option. According to Haldane
interaction with sources of knowledge new to an individual are a source
of fresh ideas. Haldane adds what is less obvious, that interpersonal
interaction with the tacit knowledge of individuals who have different
outlooks and perspectives is particularly powerful.Rather than relying on
some of the less structured dialogues regarding problems, opportunities
and ways ahead that might occur by serendipity, leaders within
organisations should consider regularly creating such situations where
groups can interact and look beyond today's first priority .

Section 3 - Research on the Learning Organisation

In this section focus is on the front line where new experience is born.
The section shows the diversity in the Learning Organisation thinking and
practice, and also the common ground on which we travel: the basic
humanistic values together with effective performance.
In the seventh chapter: Embracing Opposites Enriching Learning by
Acknowledging and Resolving Tensions Between Apparently Conflicting
Business Values, Jane McKenzie and Christine van Winkelen argue that
business performance comes from finding solutions to dilemmas. To deal
with that effectively, we should be developing individual managers mental
capability to deal with complexity and diversity in a more inclusive way.
This will enhance their learning capacity and reduce resistance to
change. To this end McKenzie and Van Winkelen have outlined an
eleven step facilitated group process that is designed to overcome
individual defensive routines and develop the triggers that support the
resolution of the primary paradoxes associated with learning, organizing
and belonging. By explicitly valuing difference in a setting where power
differences are neutralised a process wherein people are enabled to
engage productively with conflict. By creating a safe, forum for reflection,
experimentation and open discussion, opportunities can emerge to
expand the range of alternative behaviours and actions the organisation
can take in response to a situation.
In the eight chapter: The Design and Management of an Organisations
Lifelong Learning Curriculum, Richard Dealtry departs from the insight

that in an age where employees have by necessity to take responsibility

for designing and managing their own learning and have to become more
self-directed and less deferential, it is necessary for them to develop
informed perspectives on the changing interdependencies between
employers and employees, and the current and changing impact of the
influencing elements. Learning about managing personal learning and
understanding the design process is a most important skill-set to be
At the British Institute of Learning and Development (BILD) Connect
Event in November 2008, with a theme of Learning Design and Web 2
Applications, delegates recognised that there is still a need for new
professional organisations such as BILD to fill the emergent gaps in the
field of professional learning curriculum development. It also reawakened
the nature of the pioneering spirit that is essential for progress to be
made in giving life and energy to important innovations in learning
processes design and their management.
Key questions that arose from the discussions pinpointed some of the as
yet unresolved issues of choice between passive formally delivered
curriculum and work inspired dynamic curriculum; for example - What do
we need from our learning process designers? Is it realistic to look at elearning technology enabling influences in isolation? Does technology
solve some problems and create others in the development of learner?
Does the emphasis on tailoring e-learning technology to pedagogical
needs result in limiting e-learning innovation developments in work based
inspired lifelong learning?

The questions that were precipitated at the BILD Connect meeting

promoted serious reflection on the challenges that face innovations in
lifelong learning process design and management and how they can or
cannot, or need to, meld with established pedagogical validation procedures and processes. Search for your answer to this challenge, it will
provide an important understanding of the policy environment for new
thinking and emergent practice and a mapping point when starting out on
the journey for designing and improving company learning processes. The
right answer for your organisation will prevent creating learner expectations and having outcome objectives in mind that cannot be realized.
In his contribution Dealtry reviews the organic process experience in
managing work inspired learning process design and outline a holistic
contextual approach in an attempt to reveal the full range of influences in
successful work based learning process design and practice.
In the ninth chapter: Collaborative Leadership and Organisational
Learning: Lessons from the French RDT (Rseau de Diffusion
Technologique) Initiative. Hlya ztel presents a case research study of
two French companies focussing on the role of appointed managers and
of governance systems during inter-organisational learning processes
within public-private sector. The focus of the study, and the chapter, is on
the enactment of collaborative authority.
Very interestingly ztel finds that the problems in these situations are not
so much due to lack of skills, but rather to the rigidity that formalisation
imposes on the agents. She argues that strong cultures of the

participating organisations can be detrimental to the wanted knowledge

sharing, and shows how the governing elite of the region, decision
makers and stake holder, played a crucial role in the following success.
ztel concludes that the sometimes prescriptive nature of discussions of
collaborative leadership and learning could benefit from taking into
account the role of context elements, specially the governing elite around
the organisations in question. Thus ztel brings up a very stubborn
element in our change discussions, namely the social power-relations.
In the tenth chapter Developing Brain work in Education Ton Bruining
presents a research project with focus on organisational use of brain
power in order to increase knowledge productivity in the educational
sector, which is an important source for the knowledge economy.
The Dutch government wants to be one of the innovative forerunners in
the world. But the Netherlands are in arrears in comparison with other
knowledge economies. The measures taken or proposed by the Dutch
government, its advisory boards and by organisations themselves to
increase knowledge productivity in the Netherlands have been
The result of this study is the identification of factors that might increase
knowledge productivity in the educational sector. Bruining sets out to
show that work, one of Karl Marxs production factors, has changed
nature from muscle to brain and that leading effective brainwork has
become crucial. Because of this Bruining uses a whole-brain model
differentiating between four thinking styles as a frame of data-generation

and analysis and he argues that the four different thinking styles can
contribute to different necessary functions of the company.
Together with his research team from KPC Group, Bruining found a
discrepancy between the perception of top managers and frontline
workers regarding the appeal on their brainpower. In comparison,
topmanagers rate the use of their brainpower higher than frontline
workers do. The researchers expect from HRD professionals that they
make serious efforts to bridge that difference and to expand the total
appeal on the brainpower of all the employees, to improve the connection
between top management and frontline personnel and to foster cocreation by top management and frontline employees. From their study
the researchers point at different measures, such as a dialogue about the
pressure of time, the development of work processes, the tuning of
information flows, the improvement of policymaking processes and the
development of state-of-the art Human Resource Development
programs. The research shows that environmental factors influence the
perception of people concerning the deployment of their brainpower.
Bruining thinks that HRD professionals can contribute with the
development of: stimulating working environments, vertical mobility,
challenging jobs, and corporate culture. At a micro level the cooperation
of employees with different thinking styles might be facilitated.
Assessments, training programs, teamwork and personnel coaching can
make people aware of their preferences and aware of the possibilities to
challenge barriers based on differences into complementary thinking
power sources. Using thinking power to boost the knowledge economy.

In the eleventh and final chapter: The Effective Change Leader: Pilot,
Pedagogue or Politician?, Ole Hinz refers to his PhD study concerning
Leaders Meaning Models related to Successful Implementation of
Management-initiated Change Projects. The goal of this study was to
develop a small theory about the relation between supervisors
subjective meaning models, and the related outcome of the
implementation of management-initiated change projects, the basic
research question being: Which sets of meanings do leaders who
successfully implement management initiated change projects, ascribe to
themselves and their implementation tasks?
The basic theoretical position was phenomenological, the basic universe
being that of Husserl and Alfred Schtz work on the phenomenology of
the social world. Five ideal types of implementing supervisors are
deducted. These ideal types are positioned on the continuum: perceived
room to decide, and act. The case company was a Danish steel shipyard
with approx. 2,000 employees. Managers and 11 supervisors were the
case unit. Hinz shows convincingly that it is possible to identify stable
meaning models related to supervisors successfully implementing
management-initiated change projects. The crucial findings are two.
First, the degree of complexity experienced in a change project task has
to be balanced with a corresponding experience of room to decide and
act. A problem in very complex projects is that neither the manager nor
the supervisor has the answers to the challenges that the employees will
face during the change process. Thus leaders are not able to give people
precise directions. This insight is not covered by contingency theories

such as Hersey and Blanchard. Second, supervisors who implemented

successfully, experienced that they were able to create enough room for
their own employees even though they themselves were expected by
their superiors to establish tight couplings to them. Thus a certain amount
of disobedience seemed appropriate.
From a theoretical point of view, a phenomenological theoretical
framework has shown useful for as well practice as for theory


Chapter 1
Developments in the organisational learning market From the perspective of a pioneer, engaged observer
and co-creator

Dr. Ulrich Schweiker

1.1 Introduction
The life cycle curve of the consulting market for organisation learning
(OL) has probably arrived at its maturation phase. And always when a
market has reached this phase, the number of reviews and forecasts
increases. According to some colleagues, this market has now entered after a long sleep - into a stormy growth period; as usual, it depends on
the point of view.
The consulting market for Organisational Learning had many parents.
During the first decades there were several approaches resulting in a
complicated market which still has many different facets. Indeed, it is
quite difficult to draw borders to the general management consultancy or
to (psychologically stamped individual) coaching of entrepreneurs and
managers, in particular since general management consultancy now
includes psychological aspects within their considerations and an
increasing number of psychotherapeutically oriented advisors and


consultants have discovered companies and managers as a new,

lucrative clientele.
Because in most business newspapers and journals special reports on
the consulting market are published with statements on the current
situation and forecasts, here I would like to give a personally stamped
For my appraisal and evaluation, some informative essays appeared in
the "organisation development - magazine for corporate development
and change management in the years 2002, 2003 and 2004. The
editors included regional surveys, comments and interviews with
professional representatives of the field, mainly from the Germanspeaking region, like Karsten Trebesch, Klaus Doppler, Roswita
Knigswieser, Christoph Lauterburg and other famous consultants. - In
the early Nineties when running the first workshops in Brussels to
introduce the concept of learning organisations in Europe I used to be
nicknamed "the European Peter Senge". Since then, I took responsibility
as corporate executive and kept a low public profile myself.
During the past years I have collected my insights informally by a huge
number of talks and discussions during conferences and with "typical
customers. Besides, on account of my partnership in one of the biggest
management consultancies globally it was granted to me - from 1997 to
2000 - to question many known international professional representatives
of the discipline, within the scope of internal workshops to educate our
own nearly 6000 change consultants worldwide.

I would like to share my insights in the form of several development paths

or trends and tendencies. These developments are to be observed
presently and I am convinced they will increase during the next years.
The leverage of the single trends is different in different areas, so that
their order here signifies no statement about their relative importance. In
addition, some of these trends run in different directions, so that they are
partly contradictory.
I make here, intentionally, no difference between the concepts
"organisation development", change management, and "organisation
learning", although this lately becomes usual. The demarcation between
the origin from action research and group dynamics on the one hand and
the "normal" management, on the other hand, which deals intensively
with managing change processes is not helpful from my point of view. In
practice external and internal consultants and advisers and executives
alike use implicitly or explicitly identical convictions, philosophy, methods,
and arguments. This is true for the descendants in entrepreneurial
families, for those who make careers starting from professional functions
as well as for those qualified by formal education - mostly graduating with
master of business administration degrees.

1.2 Development: increasing integration of OL concepts and

methods into general management
While some decades ago OL was conceptualized as a counterpole to
traditional management and by a huge number of professionals even
deliberately was postulated as a necessary (revolutionary) reaction, in

the meantime a stage is reached in which most academic and

professional curricula contain the most essential concepts and methods
of OL for (general) managers.
Managers were "nasty" in dealing with employees, ignoring needs,
exploiting, and OL consultants provided for a better world, by
participation of employees who had been seen as victims of management
activity before. Particularly as with increasing importance of knowledge of
the individual employee, his or her commitment, dedication, and
motivation became more relevant to corporate success.
Beside the general value crisis in society and the consolidation of many
industries there is a trend towards more and more dependence of
knowledge - i.e. dependence of employees who are better trained and
are decisive with their acquired experiences and learning potentials and
development potentials. This has also changed the attitudes of many
managers, so that OL has become a natural part of their daily life.
Accordingly the demand in consulting has changed: While consultants
(for the purpose of action research) were integrated formerly as external
experts even into business activities, now they serve increasingly as
instructors and personal learning companions of the executives who
themselves play the role as creators of OL processes. Besides, in the
background they are actively supporting with conceptualising and
planning of change processes. Thus the wise OL consultants can use
their experiences to estimate the feasibility and success probability of
interventions and thus make the managers' job more easy. During a

longer interim phase there will be both variants, until all latecomer's
industries will have reached this new state.
The amount of OL content in management education has clearly
changed during the past years, in most classical curricula from the basic
education for future executives up to the special services for seasoned
executives. In more and more training centers the classical (past-related)
case study, in which a historical example from the company practice is
reflected and is worked on, has made room for "living cases", futurerelated and oriented to creation and change, in which students work on
actual problems from practice, suggest solutions, and accompany the
change process initiated by their work - well-chosen by the responsible
management team - in real-time; besides, the choice of adequate OL
interventions and their effects are reflected continuously, substantially,
and more intensely. Instead of re-running simulated flights, co-pilots are
trained in the air.
The Corporate University concepts - with an obvious straight connection
to the status quo and strategic positioning of corporations - register rapid
growth for many years now. This is best illlustrated by the recently
launched programme ECUANET, a trans-national corporate academy
action research project intended to initiate and promote learning from
best practices in corporate or organisation learning.


1.3 Development: reorganisation of society, economy, and

The structural change of whole national economies is taking place. While
in the past politics have placed many determining factors, designed by
powerful lobby groups, the power of the individual to create and shape
has recently grown considerably. Advanced educational background,
higher adaptability in the working process, more frequent changes-ofemployer and a trend towards smaller organisational units mean that
substantially more briefly, medium-term and long-term planning
procedures, complicated influencing control mechanisms, more
sophisticated co-decision processes and general decision-making
processes with continuously new involved parties must be designed and
operated. On the one hand, all that is enabled by the fact that more and
more people are knowledgeable about the conceptual and practical side
of creating and shaping OL processes, on the other hand, by the fact that
now a sufficient quantity of qualified consultants is available.
Consequently, it would be desirable if the experienced OL professionals
would position themselves to those assignments aiming at the shaping of
general societal macro-processes. Social restructuring - in view of
progressive globalization and increasing mutual interdependence and
integration needs - as well as the social change with new demographic
distribution patterns are challenges which require a very high degree of
creative OL competence: a demanding challenge even to the best of the
best OL thinkers and practitioners.


Of course, experiences which were won in micro processes are not

sufficient for macro processes, at first they are, however, the only
available basis.
Employers' associations, trade unions, political parties, media, all big
organisations and associations which stamp our society have a need for
OL competence to design and shape together these societal processes
appropriately and above all as fast as possible.
Wherever these processes are concerned, a gigantic demand originates
to create and shape additional subprocesses. E.g., if in an archbishopric
or at a charity organisation participative change processes are being
initiated, similar processes will soon follow in the corresponding
municipalities and the individual appendant institutions; if in a
governmental district a comparable initiative is begun, other processes
will soon follow in the local communes.
If we accept that all labor-intensive business processes which require no
qualified education and training and several years' work experience, must
be shifted from a location that does no longer provide favorable
conditions economically concerning tax, personnel and expenses-related
determining factors to more convenient locations, then we can conceive
an idea of the future change and transformation processes to be
construed and managed in our region of the world.
Because in politics, in parties, organisations and associations and trade
unions, even within the whole population, administrative experts and

lawyers establish the majority, the majority of society is ruled by an office

worker's mentality and accordingly there is little entrepreneurial spirit and
little will and power to create does exist. Thus the importance of a
suitable supporting OL consultation is quite essential to initiate and
launch these societal change and transformation processes and to speed
them up. Who is not a pioneer or at least quick in following soon, will
have to resign and accept to dangle after all the others. A growing market
is probably to be found here which demands from the consultants that
they wait not in their offices for orders, but play their roles as self-initiative
designers and creators.

1.4 Development: increasing specialization

With increasing demand in OL consulting it is normal that there is a wish
for differentiation with clients as well as service providers. Clients would
like to use special previous experiences to build on, look for the experts
who can show experiences in identical areas, with comparable problems,
from the same industrial sector, with a similar clientele. Analogously,
consultants and advisers look for their special professional niches to be
able to differentiate themselves from any competitors - to be able to sign
unique contracts and achieve higher prices as well.
In the pioneer's phase at first only a few qualified and experienced
consultants were available to assist in the creation and shaping of more
complicated processes who could demand high consulting fees and were
still fully booked. They were shaping companies according to the
principles of action research, group dynamics, and organisation

development. Today a huge number of consultants is developing the OL

market. They are predominantly active in market niche segments and are
no longer in a position to offer a comparable magnitude of expertise and
to gain suitable fees. They lack general and specialised experience and
thus a unique selling proposition.
In the meantime the variants of specialisation are tremendous. Thus
there is specialisation according to:

Size: OL for very small enterprises - where, for instance, for cost
reasons, student management consultancies have a main focus -,
for SME (small to middle-sized companies), for large-scale
enterprises, for international groups;

The kind of the organisation: Business enterprises, not-for-profit

organisations and associations, employers' associations and trade
unions, churches, civil service insitutions, towns and cities,
regions, districts and areas, counties and countries, cross-border

The problem formulations: Mergers, joint ventures, restructuring,

purchases and sales, closing of locations, build-ups of new

Developmental phases, functions and industrial sectors: for start

up companies, for joint marketing organisations, for general
collaboration in education and continuing education, cooperations
of every kind, for intercultural problems, but also for de-mergers,
business process outsourcing, management-buy-outs, etc.

Now, for many of these areas individual OL consultants and special OL

consulting firms have developed. General market rules apply: The
smaller the niche, the less competition, the more special the needs, the
better and more successful niche knowledge and niche experiences may
be marketed. The more clearly the personal knowledge and previous
experiences with the expectations of the clients match, the more
efficiently the specialization is usable in the market.
Just with these specializations, experienced former managers are able to
change smoothly into the OL consulting market. In view of the many
recent reasons of an untimely leaving from manager's functions (by early
retirements, elimination as a result from restructuring and pooling of
functions or company units or increased inter-company cooperation) the
number of the ex-managers entering the OL consulting market, mostly
within the context of their previous managerial specializations, is
continuously rising.

1.5 Development: Varied Education and Qualification

Twenty years ago there was hardly any systematic education with
graduation as "OL expert". Accordingly the fathers (and mothers) of the
scene were marked very differently judging from their educational
background. While originally many OL experts came from group
dynamics (and had passed respective education as group dynamics
facilitators) or from psychoanalytic psychotherapeutic psychological
educational activities (because of the comparable complexity there was a

preference for systems dynamic and family therapy), in the meantime,

many education and training programs have been established - mostly
initiated, designed, and executed by the fathers and mothers of the
As a result OL consulting is offered by three types of service providers /

those who belong to the original OL consultants and have no

formal OL education and qualification. Some of them are
prevailing, some are even exclusively active as instructors and
teachers of the "new" generation of OL consultants.

the second group consists of those who have graduated from one
of the "formal educational ways.

the third group consists of those who have gained their

experiences in creating and shaping organisational structures and
business processes as (senior) executives and managers; and
now they evaluate and advise their former peers - and of those
who got a background as technical advisers with other consulting
topics and were forced increasingly to integrate into their solutions
more and more the question of how to make change and
transformation happen and how to overcome barriers and
hindrances. Accordingly they offer now predominantly appropriate
OL interventions and respective consulting. In addition, all
corporate strategy consultants as well as all general management
consultancies with other professional main focuses have built up,

in the meantime, either their own additional service divisions

offering OL consultation, or have hired qualified teams of OL
consultants who offer integral solutions.
Because everybody can offer educational programs, there is a huge
number of curricula offered nowadays whose quality standards are hard
to evaluate. Because the whole field of OL consulting is very
heterogeneous, it is also difficult to install generally valid high-class
criteria for successful OL work and logically also for OL education and
training. Up to now, as in the field of psychotherapy education and
training, every attempt to establish a professional quality control and
access control to the occupation has led to the consequence that those
"not-admitted" have re-defined and re-labeled their work, have
established new terms, and have continued to offer their services
consistently. And - not necessarily with less success and worse results
than those with certificates and membership status of professional
For any occupation and profession whose exercise is based to quite a
great part on personal and professional experiences, apparently a
suitable regulation and quality control is only partly possible. - Or it would
have to be made extraordinary! The attempts so far to introduce life and
professional experiences as registration prerequisites - mostly in the
context of continuous education research - are not yet convincing nor


Many education programs which have increasingly also OL content and

the specific OL education and training curricula have in common that they
provide a basic repertoire of knowledge including theories and concepts
of different origin as well as a basic repertoire of the analytic and
intervention methods which come from group dynamics and from almost
all fields of psychology, therapy, education, and social work. Besides, it
belongs to the self-image of the discipline to accept a high degree of
experimental play, so that a huge number of interventions is taken from
other areas: from story-telling to dramatic composition of events for large
groups. Accordingly a high liveliness and a claim of lifelong learning are
demanded especially for OL consultants vehemently; whether they also
walk the talk may be argued. My personal perception is that here claim
and reality are distributed normally.
Besides, most OL curricula contain - according to the known criteria for
successful OL consulting work - a high degree of self-reflection and
supervision and common sharing of personal and professional
experiences. Since the skills of teachers and instructors and the
composition of the training groups are especially relevant for the results
of education and training, an accepted quality assessment and evaluation
according to shared criteria is problematic.

1.6 Development: repositioning of classical Management

The main work of traditional management consulting had been for a long
time to pull up knowledge from former projects and information drawn

from analyses and problem solutions from other companies and to

present new solutions. Virtually as an external thinktank to the extension
of company in-house knowledge.
Then the realisation of the suggested solutions was put into the hands of
executive managers and employees. If they did not succeed, a more
thorough analysis was carried out or another management consultancy
was instructed with the search for farther (new) solutions, or the
responsible executives were simply exchanged.
The whole market has changed completely. Of course there is still a
specialized niche market, in which particular talents to procure relevant
data - especially confidential material, strategical with competitors' insight
and hardly accessible information - and the capacity to evaluate these
data is needed. Mainly by those companies with only a now and then
need or where the rare talents would be too expensive to have them in
house continuously. In this area specified consulting companies and
individuals have their dedicated market. Economic spying, benchmarking
studies, marketing research, demographic analyses and trend research,
patent strategy, and many other subjects are showing overlapping
Concerning the planning and shaping of changes, however, the opinion
has asserted itself that the transformation should be guided and
managed by the same people who have conceptualized them, so that on
the one hand the classical management consultancies have started to
include the transformation processes into their consulting portfolio, and

on the other hand the OL consultants who had been concentrating

formerly intensively upon the designing and facilitating of discussions,
communication, negotitation, cooperation and conflict management had
to start also to acquire knowledge about markets and their trends, about
industrial sectors and professional functions, extending to be able to codesign also adequate business processes and transformation processes
in a persuasive and convincing manner.

1.7 Development: outsourcing of non-core functions

Originally for pure cost reasons, increasingly, however, also for strategic
considerations to focus and deliver high-class quality in the core business
many companies have initiated to transfer all other functions which do not
belong to their core business to other companies. At first it was
essentially the transfer of whole functional areas - originally of costly
computer centers into the custody of new companies who had made the
operation of a number of computer centers their core business and could
realize synergies and cost advantages.
Many service providers, e.g. the operators of call centers, have
developed their core business, in the meantime, into extended services:
Now the business is about partnering strategically in a way by which the
companies jointly run whole business processes, e.g. all customer
related processes. From the first contact by phone up to ordering and
delivery, invoice, collection of fees to maintenance and repair including
the operation of technical hotlines, the staffing, management, operation
of external technical workforce, warehousing and exchange of spare

parts. The difference to the simple outsourcing of organisational units

consists in the fact that an entrepreneurial commitment is made to adapt
all suitable functions in each phase of the development of the core
business; i.e. if necessary to reduce capacities when needed, to simplify
and to redesign more economically, to develop and upgrade the
respective services also according to increasing core business needs, to
hire farther staff, to arrange and establish additional locations, to extend
quality, etc. Therefore real enterprise business partnerships come into
existence, straightened for longer periods - where both partners must
bind themselves in the longer term and cooperate reliably - with
entrepreneurial interest in the joint success and business results.
Hence, the shaping and designing of these partnerships - the process of
joining forces and entering into a joint business agenda - is an important
aspect of all business process outsourcing projects. All companies
dealing with it have a growing demand in OL consulting. The acquisition
of existing business units - with a characteristic history in their previous
company culture - and their integration into a new corporate structure
with - as a rule - rather contrary company culture show a great challenge
for which creative OL consulting services are requested. Because during
a post merger integration phase usually an increased staff fluctuation is
to be registered, it is worth to consider, manage, and control a huge
number of social and cultural aspects.
But also those companies which focus on their core processes and core
competence are facing a creation process: With the definition of their
core processes and core competence the definition of core staff and,

simultaneously, also non-core staff walks along. Until the differentiation is

made and is officially communicated, a great insecurity and uncertainty of
the whole staff is to be managed; after the definition a great uncertainty
begins with the staff considered non-core - waiting for dismissal or sales
of their business unit or outsourcing - in any case, however, with a no
longer putatively safe future like in the previous company context. The
motivational deficits originating from it may become so critical - in
particular with knowledge-based business segments - that additional
expenditures are justified for accompanying and facilitating by OL
consultants. Especially with knowledge-based business segments, lack
of motivation of those individuals contributing the most to running the
core business processes endanger the existence and survival of the
whole company.

1.8 Development: turbulences in other consulting market

In many areas in which consultants are traditionally working there have
been tremendous changes comparable to those in the OL consulting
market. Accordingly there is a competitive market, search for furthermore
lucrative niches as well as for possibilities to make way into other areas.
The shift from psychotherapy into supervision and nearby coaching is
obvious. Those consultants with an enterpreneurial, business
adminsitrative, and national economic background observe for nearly
fifteen years an increasing competition of people who deal, indeed, quite
successful with the clientele of executives and skilled specialists whose

focus lies, however, on a one-sided individual adjustment to their

respective environment because the suggested solutions must ignore a
large part of the life reality of their clientele due to the absence of
knowledge and insight of operational business needs and economic
Similar statements apply to most consulting market segments. In deed,
HR consultants are useful, sensible, meaningful and helpful if it is about
the consulting of people who must solve problems in the areas in which
these consultants have special experiences - but also here it is true that
the outside view of a HR consultant can be helpful with the shaping of
personnel marketing, recruitment processes, evaluation processes and
development processes but is necessarily restricted because the internal
determining factors which can be decisive for these processes are not
familiar to him or her in enough depth!
Similar statements are true for communications engineers, media
consultants, financial advisers and investment consultants, tax
consultants, accountants, auditors, lawyers and many other
Also many service providing enterprises offer their respective specified
expert's knowledge as consulting.
All these competitors offer their consultancy services from a
specialization point of view. Whether they get to develop a generalist's
perspective to put their special knowledge into an adequate context and

to appropriately take into consideration respective determining factors

may not to be answered in general. In every field there are natural talents
capable of making effortless changes between detailed focus and
overview and who can produce connections between objective
professional solutions and the subjective needs of people. A
comprehensive long-standing experience in any field is also often enough
to establish a framework which allows to properly evaluate the
appropriateness of general interventions in a specific context. However,
an occupation and profession should not be built on these natural talents,
but on skills that may be taught and developed systematically: Theories,
methods, practice, experience, know-how, self-reflection.

1.9 Development: changes of role understanding of

entrepreneurs, executives, managers, consultants and
Only recently we may observe a new tendency. Traditionally, there had
been a clear role definition and role differentiation between the
responsible executives and their employees as co-creators as well as the
facilitating and accompanying external consultants. Indeed, even with
company internal consultants it is paid attention that - at least during the
course of a consultation mandate - no subordinate positions and power
relations take annoying leverage, in practice, however, such a separation
is limited. In a subsequent project the same persons can meet again
and then there is an influencing common past to be taken into account.
Also there is always a common future with managers and consultants

being from the same company! Thus the concept of independence is

questionable and is replaced by a more adequate inter-dependence.
Most consultants - at the latest since the scandals of the consulting
industry - demand a disclosure of dependence and favor to maintain an
active, clear and transparent way to deal with it. This also corresponds to
the current ideas and claims to a contemporary excellence in Corporate
More essential in this context is the observation that an increasing
number of consultants is affiliated with networks to which also the
entrepreneurs and managers belong. Discussing the independence of
corporate board directors it became clear that it is less a question of the
dependence and control, the power and influencing capacity, but rather
the transparency and the deliberate management of the consequences of
interrelations between the players.
If entrepreneurs, executive directors, managers, and consultants and
advisers are perceived together as members of the same "caste", a
social elite, then the critical question is, how their shared basic
convictions, beliefs, habits, values and dogmas as well as their tacitly
cultivated taboo zones and behavioral codes leverage those change
processes initiated by them - and whether such leverage can be
recognized, prevented and, if necessary, be neutralized.
This matters in particular if in a company or country precedence is given
rather to persisting on habits instead of an openness to changes and if


the same executives and consulting firms protect key positions for
decades in policy and economy and society together.
Even though visible only for short periods and in social and economic
niches, there are more and more "new faces" for which loyalty to ones
own beliefs has a higher value than the adaptation to standard practice of
their "caste". New technologies and the passing internet euphoria have
enabled some to achieve personal independence fast (also in financial
terms) which allows them to remain the way they were - as teenagers
and twens. - For them their clique, their peer group, their smaller inner
circle of friends is more important than other reference frameworks; of
course hierarchy, power, and dependence is coined there quite differently
than in big organisations grown over many generations. This leads to a
natural, intense common approach to cooperation; OL consulting is only
necessary if their organisations grow speedy and situations occur for
which they have not yet generated an appropriate behavioral pattern. To
them, OL consultants are expected to naturally fit into the working teams,
share their insights, and become members of their narrow circles of
friends - of course nevertheless exercising their competence - but an
outside distant facilitating consultant's role is no more conceivable in their
mental model and frame of reference.
There are now such new cells of people who want to move something
together (and have fun together) and for whom those previous border
lines between client and contractor, between entrepreneur and service
provider, between manager and consultant become fluent and obsolete;
also their respective competence profiles become more interchangeable.

Good managers must dispose of a high degree of consultant's

competence - and good consultants should dispose of the ability to take
over leadership assignments and enterprise and project responsibility as
interim managers as well.
Accordingly the borders between the labour market for executives and
the market for OL consultants become blurred. The people who pledge
common creation and shaping of society and companies to the flag avoid
most of the previous categories.

1.10 Development: new entrepreneurship - knowledge work

With most cited trends there was already a hint at the increasing
importance of knowledge as a main factor of production; accordingly OL
consulting services profit immensely from more educated, certified,
independently thinking and financially and economically more self
confident knowledge workers.
The personally liable partner of Me Ltd. and the main stockholder,
supervisory and executive board director, President and CEO of I Inc.
decide of course according to other criteria on the application of OL
consultation than the hired managers of an (anonymous) corporate group
or as the officers of a complex matrix organisation. The answer to the
question what brings consulting to my own fun, life, and my company?
is fundamentally different from the answer to the question what brings
consulting to the(ir) group of companies? (measured by its stock value
which may be manipulated by economic journalists anyway , measured

by the turnover which is influenced by leverage factors, independent of

the company and its leaders , measured by business results which are
dependent on many other accidental aspects and are defined, in the end,
rather by categorization and allocation processes mastered by the
accounting department, the controllers, the auditors and revisors than by
our own action ).
I myself - as the decisive reference unit - can afford to attach other
standards: The time for myself, my family, for my circle of friends and my
spare time, longer professional sabbaticals, continuing education in my
current activity area and education for future challenges are differently
weighted and evaluated with knowledge workers and, if possible, also
differently planned and executed.
To light up the new creative opportunities from individual points of view,
to illuminate and to bring light into dark corners, to steer the glance into
unfamiliar risqu areas, all this offers a comprehensive new activity field
for OL consulting.
Coaching was - originally marked in sports psychology as a service - the
comprehensive support and care to teenagers who could produce
unusual performances in their field of sport and, since all other aspects of
life missed out, an individual had to step in to substitute for a family and a
gang of friends. Of course the sports coach accompanied his fosterling
also to a disco visit (at least up to the doorsteps) and assisted in filling
the (rare) spare time. In such a sense, a comprehensive facilitation and
coaching of future knowledge workers may be understood. Because it is

not only about the theoretical consideration of opportunities, but also

about trying out, also test of courage, an experienced OL consultant may
be needed.
The same applies to companies: growing numbers of knowledge workers
require new elbow-room, co-creation opportunities, experiments,
common decision-making and negotiation processes which lead to
success and positive results if they are accompanied and facilitated

1.11 Summary
If we look at the cited developmental paths in total, we can predict that
there will be a boom in OL-consulting services during the next years.
Indeed, OL consulting will not only be executed in the format as we know
it. We will see excellent OL work detached from so-called OL consultants,
in the hands of entrepreneurs, executives, and managers and, indeed,
every individual, we will experience specialised OL experts, but also
many other consultants and advisers who will have the title OL in their
letterheads, we will see entrepreneurs initiating OL processes without
even using the label - many of them not even knowing the concept and
idea. And we will experience an increasing demand in the area beyond
traditional companies, in the non-commercial, societal, and in the political
Large scale projects in which the coping and mastering of complex
transformation is in the focus as well as smaller actions and activities

designed with the repertoire of OL - the creation and shaping of structure,

processes, and culture and coaching of the key players of the change
game - will have more and more emphasis and meaning to corporate life,
and society.
According to internal insight of one of the leading OL consulting services
providers, by now successful projects are estimated to dedicate at least
15% of the whole (transformation) budget to such OL activities. If any
change and transformation project spends less than that chances are
high that it will fail.


Chapter 2
Organisational Learning and The Unsustainable
Lightness of Being

Dr. Angela Nobre

2.1 Introduction the relevance of Organisational Learning
Many of the ideas and concepts related to what was later to be known as
Organisational Learning were already familiar in the 1950s and 1960s
through the work of organisational social psychologists, and of social and
educational theorists. Appreciative systems, socio-technical systems and,
later, soft systems thinking are examples of such efforts. Nevertheless, it
was Argyris and Schns work on organisational learning in the late
1970s which defined the central concepts of the field such as reflexive
practice and double-loop learning. Other authors followed, and it was the
dissemination of Senges work on the learning organisation in the 1990
which led the field of organisational learning into its full blown form as a
widely recognised and accepted management theory and practice. There
is some critique to this wide dissemination of the ideas related to
organisational learning, namely that it is simply another management fad
as have been the quality and the re-engineering movements, and also
that there are still many black holes in terms of the conceptualisation of


its key notions and many loose links between organisational learning
theory and practice.
Today, in the first decade of the twenty first century, there are two critical
aspects about organisational learning which make it a fundamental body
of knowledge in contemporary management thinking. The first one is how
organisational learning, together with other recent management research
fields, answers or responds to the paradoxes and challenges raised by
the knowledge economy of the information age. Knowledge
management, communities of practice, and organisational learning
developed in the last quarter of the twentieth century as part of a wider
picture and of a radical change in the understanding of what
organisations are and how they should be managed. Each of these
approaches holds critical perspectives which have a relevant impact on
current management practices, therefore surpassing the brief influence of
pure management fads.
The second aspect related to the importance of organisational learning to
contemporary management thinking, and also to the other parallel
movements of knowledge management and communities of practice, is
how well these recent management theories are able to explain and to
prove to have a productive and effective approach to the context of
complexity, both within organisations and within societies as a whole.
The process of globalisation and the technology revolution present new
opportunities and threats to organisations and to managers. It is the
crucial role of these new management approaches to develop relevant
perspectives in terms of organisational theory and practice. However,

organisational learning stands out in relation to knowledge management

and to communities of practice precisely because it integrates and
develops the key concepts which these two approaches propose within
an organisational context, i.e. it uses and adapts their critical
contributions into an overall approach to organisations as a whole.
The present chapter explains why organisational learning has survived
the management fad threat and now represents a fundamental element
in contemporary management theory and practice. The role played by
organisational learning has two critical and interrelated poles, as if two
sides of the same coin: what does it mean and what are the implications
of the knowledge economy at organisational level? And how can
organisational complexity be understood and dealt with at internal and
external level?
Therefore, the current chapter revises key issues related to the
development of organisational learning as a research field of
management and organisation studies. In order to grasp the full potential
of this field of study it is necessary to acknowledge the breadth and
scope of its research object. The complexity, the diversity and the
richness of the theoretical perspectives that are applied and used within
the field of organisational learning are a sign of its dynamism and vitality.
This is the kernel essence of organisational learning as an application
The main argument of the present chapter is that organisational learning,
or any management theory, or even any scientific development, is the

product of contextual trends and influences that take the form of schools
of thought. These influences become competing paradigms that co-exist
side by side while the theoretical development of a specific scientific area
takes place. Therefore, it is possible to identify the traces of parallel or
even of conflicting perspectives that have ear-marked different
approaches to the study of the same research object. Acknowledging the
presence of these influences and understanding their inner rationale
enables the identification of the strengths and weaknesses of each
research field and opens new perspectives for further development.
Following this reasoning, the field of organisational learning may explore
the full potential of its explanatory power by interpreting and questioning
these foundational paradigms. More importantly, organisational learning
itself constitutively embodies this inquiring process, the questioning of the
taken for granted assumptions at organisational level, what Argyris and
Schn (1978, 1996, Argyris, 1992) referred to as double-loop learning.
The challenges posed by the knowledge economy of the information age
(Kearmally, 1999) call for an intensification of management procedures
and routines whilst integrating further degrees of flexibility and of
innovation at all levels of an organisation. The context of the modern
world is characterised by the pivotal role of organisations in society.
Therefore, it is not surprising to find organisations in general being the
arenas of turbulent change, of the complexity of post-modern reality and
of the tensions related to the transition from modernity to post-modernity.
Organisation learning theory and practice has a key role to play in this
context: that of bridging the formal and procedural aspects of

organisational life with its informal and dynamic processes that make
innovation real, effective and productive.

2.2 The subtle nature of organisational learning

Milan Kundera wrote the novel The Unsustainable Lightness of Being in
1983 and this story from Prague has marked a generation. It
simultaneously calls attention to the complexity of the concrete and of
that which is immediate the thickness of reality -, and to the illusion of
the apparent transparency of that which belongs to our consciousness
the misleading crystal clear certitudes of our conscious self, and of that
which seems natural and that we take for granted.
A generation of managers and of organisational practitioners has also
been marked by the developments of the field of organisational learning.
From the early works of Argyris and Schn in the late seventies (1978),
Senges (1990) wide dissemination of the theory and practice of the
learning organisation, and the proliferation of organisational learning
approaches ranging from different disciplinary areas, this research field
has blossomed and has grown to become a relatively mature
management area. However, it is not possible to say that organisational
learnings contributions have been generally integrated into management
theory and practice as one can say, for instance, of the quality
Several reasons may be pointed out to explain this situation. The
diversity and the lack of a single rationale to serve as a common

foundation of the existent organisational learning initiatives is frequently

referred to as being a dispersing factor, and as serving to degrade the
importance of its contributions to the understanding of organisational
reality. Easterby-Smith and Lyles (2003) disagree with this negative
interpretation and stress the positive aspects related to this diversity. It is
possible that the reason for the difficulty of generalising the use of
organisational learning ideas and initiatives is subtle, that is, it is probably
related to the complexity and to the incommensurable nature of its object
of study, i.e., to what is this organisation and this learning.
The concept of organisational learning, understood either as a guiding
metaphor or as a concrete reality, implicitly carries with it infinite levels of
analysis and a multitude of relevant perspectives and points of view.
Whether we acknowledge, are conscious of and recognise the
importance of this implicit background is of minor importance because
this complexity and richness of organisational learning approaches is a
strength and a dynamism that surpasses the voluntaristic efforts of
individuals. The unsustainable lightness of being of organisational
learning is there to be profited from, used and explored, and not to be
hermetically determined in an eclectic single definition. The reason why
organisational learning initiatives cannot be readily closed and packaged
in a neat and prescriptive fashion, as the quality movement has so
effectively managed to do, has to be understood as a positive aspect and
as a sign of the richness, complexity and inner vitality of this field of


It is at community level, in particular at the level of the communities

interested in the field of organisational learning and related approaches,
interested in terms of its application and also in terms of its theoretical
development, that it is possible to envision a gradual sedimentation and
consolidation of this field of study, one that does not rigidify its inner
dynamics but rather enables its full development and allows for a positive
contamination of other management areas.

2.3 Extra demands on management and extra possibilities

on offer
Management practice and thinking cannot be understood outside the
overall paradigms that have characterised the development of western
thought. The field of organisational learning does not escape these
influences and, together with the development of theories on knowledge
management (e.g. Davenport, 1993; Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995;
Sveiby, 1997) and communities of practice (e.g. Lave and Wenger, 1991;
Brown and Duguid, 1991), it is part of the effort, on behalf of
management science, to theorise and systematise effective answers to
the challenges posed by the societal developments that occurred in the
second half of the twentieth century. In socio-economic terms these
changes have been characterised by a radical evolution of information
and communication technologies that in turn have supported and enabled
the development of global businesses, and have fuelled a pervasive
globalisation of other spheres of society, from NGOs (Non-Governmental


Organisations), to capital markets, to cultural phenomena, to

environmental movements and international institutions.
More importantly, the recognition of the need to apply and implement
rational and effective management procedures has grown far beyond
pure business and industrial related areas including broad ranging fields
such as health care, education, institutional research, environmental
protection, and social and judiciary policy. Therefore, throughout the
period of transition from the twentieth to the twenty first centuries there
has been a massive tension on management science being built on
pressures from the demand side and from the supply side. On the
demand side, the question is raised on: - how can managerial techniques
be effectively applied in non-business areas in a globalised world? On
the supply side, the question is: - and how can management theory and
practice incorporate all the developments that it has available ranging
from information technology to social sciences theory?
The development of the organisational learning field of study is pulled
and pushed by both pressures, from the demand and from the supply
side. On one hand, organisational learning theories aim to develop new
instruments and methodologies that may address ever increasingly
complex and challenging management situations. The demand side pull
consists on pressures to improve the effectiveness of management
interventions. On the other hand, organisational learning theory building
faces the need to incorporate and to optimise the explanatory-power of
diverse theoretical perspectives, disciplines, and schools of thought, and
the potentialities of technological advancements that may improve the

effectiveness and the depth and breadth of management thinking and

practice. Therefore, the supply side push consists on radically improved
theoretical approaches potentiated by innovative technology.
Organisational learning contributions therefore play a key role in the
development of organisational theory and practice.

2.4 Characterising current organisational contexts

Before addressing the specificity of organisational learning approaches,
and the questions of how and why their contributions are critical within
current management settings, it is important to highlight certain core
characteristics of the setting itself. The current organisational context can
be characterised by the pressures related to the globalisation
phenomenon and the derivative drive for an increase in competitiveness,
that in turn fuels the need to improve efficiency, effectiveness and
productivity. Though these pressures were already present in traditionally
close economies, they become stronger and are ever-present in todays
globalised organisational contexts.
Together with these pressures there is a rise in importance of an array of
methods to assess and evaluate organisational performance, to quantify
and measure results, and to improve, plan, control and predict future
effectiveness. All these pressures to become competitive and measures
to evaluate performance have one thing in common: they are based on
the rationale that it is necessary to intensify formal control procedures,
structures, norms and rules that may in turn support the desired increase
in competitiveness and the needed evaluation of results. Critically

important, and little understood, is the inner lack of coherence and of

consistency of this paradoxical phenomenon: the technocratic
intensification of formal procedures of control is rooted in a pattern that
calls for repetition and imitation, and not for innovation and for exploring
the novel. However, innovation and enhanced creativity is the central
focus of successful competition in a globalised world.
In order to understand the level of complexity of the challenges placed on
current organisations it is necessary to clarify the ambiguity that is hidden
in the above mentioned account. On one hand, there is this need for
procedural formalisation, that brings in further rigidities and that is closely
linked to the past and to the supposedly proved to be effective
measures, in the name of the stated goal of improved effectiveness. On
the other hand, there is a high degree of turbulence and an increase in
the pace of change of organisational environments that calls for flexibility,
creativity and innovation on behalf of organisations. The context of the
new economy implies a change in paradigm in management thinking.
Instead of relying on tangible assets and on past patterns of behaviour
there is the need to rethink management practices and to value the tacit
and intangible core organisational capabilities because these are
inimitable by competitors and thus a source of sustainable competitive
The knowledge economy, as a concept, has been subject to deserved
criticisms namely related to the appropriation, by the information
technology industry, of a broad political and economical propaganda
effect that blindly pushes for more technology irrespective of the

rationality of its effective use. Contrarily, there are incontestable

phenomena that are also acknowledged, in particular the gains from the
technical revolution that has occurred in the second half of the twentieth
century in the information and communication industries, and the
economic, social, cultural and political changes that have enabled, and
have also been affected by, such technological developments.
Because organisations are at the epicentre of todays modern, or rather
post-modern, societies these societal changes are produced and effected
at organisational level. Thus it is not surprising to recognise in todays
organisations and in their environment an overwhelming growth in
complexity and a craving for action and thought venues that may respond
to such complexity.

2.5 The key challenges that organisational learning

responds to
The development of organisational learning theories may be interpreted
under the light of the arguments presented above. The picture of a
globalised world where the call for competitiveness and increased
effectiveness leads or misleads - organisations to entrenched
procedural formalisations, together with the opposite pressures to
become innovative and flexible, places organisations in a constant
dilemma. The paradoxical call for both structure and charisma, for
continuity and change, and for the balance between the formal and the
informal is as old as civilisation itself though it is in the present days that


this need for balance becomes a question of survival for concrete

The first and most important contribution of organisational learning
theories may be identified precisely in their capacity to bridge these two
sides of the same coin and thus enable the exploration of the full
organisational potential: the formal, procedural and structural aspects of
organisations and the informal, flexible, creative and innovative
organisational capacities. Interpreting organisational learning as a bridge
over supposedly incommensurable areas places high expectations and
high stakes on this promising management field. These expectations may
easily become disillusions if they are based on a prescriptive and
definitive solution to organisational problems because, under current
complexity, such recipe-like solutions may only achieve short-term or
even immediate relief without any long-term consequence or benefit.
However, there is open-ended potential if organisational learning
contributions are taken to be reading-lenses and interpreting-matrixes for
todays reality and therefore help organisations to gradually deal more
effectively and positively with such challenges, and to respond to them in
an innovative and creative way.
In order to analyse the field of organisational learning under such light it
is necessary to review its development throughout the years when it
explicitly became known as an independent area of study, as well as the
period when earlier theories were developed, theories that created the
roots and foundations of the later work. In parallel to such account it is
necessary to evaluate the developments that characterised western

thought in the different schools of social sciences. As has been argued

earlier on, the contributions of organisational learning theories cannot be
understood outside the overall mentality and thinking-possibilities that
constituted the scenario and world-views of our modern, and also postmodern, societies.
The importance of the recognition of the close interlinks and
interdependencies between any management field, or even of any
scientific area, and the societal environment that incubated the
development of the professional communities that gave rise to such
theories, is paramount. Without the recognition of such
interdependencies, theory building cannot be acknowledged as a socially
constructed phenomenon, permeable to the influences of past and
present developments and draw-backs. Within the field of organisational
learning, such recognition enables a deeper understanding of certain
fads and passing trends whilst it opens new possibilities for a more solid
and productive development of organisational learning foundational and
kernel theories.
It is critical to acknowledge that organisational learning, as other
organisational and management areas, is an application field, where it is
possible to use, to apply and to develop many different, and often
contradictory, perspectives, assumptions and approaches. The legitimacy
and the credibility of each position and application has to stand for itself,
supported by the historical and specific validity of the theories from which
it draws its rationale.

Nevertheless, there are divergent opinions on the desirability of such

state of affairs, as has already been referred above. Some authors claim
that such variety and diversification fragment the field of organisational
learning, confuse practitioners, divert the attention of other scholars, and
therefore these authors call for a harmonisation and integration at
theoretical level. Other authors, including Easterby-Smith and Lyles
(2003), argue that such variety of multidisciplinary approaches and
divergence of theoretical perspectives enables the enrichment and the
cross-fertilisation of this field of study, and therefore makes it better
prepared to help organisations to face the multiple-level and complex
challenges of todays contexts.
This second opinion, the one that acknowledges the importance of
diversity, opens the possibility for the long-term development of
organisational learning theory building because it does not link it to a
fixed and stable criterion, valid only in a narrow territory. In particular, this
perspective enables the exploration of action and of thinking venues, and
of theoretical assumptions and world-views, that are still being developed
and that do not find an easy integration into mainstream conventional
management practices. Therefore, if organisational learning is
understood not as an end in itself but as an effective management tool,
both in terms of organisational practices and in terms of theoretical
development, then the evolution of the organisational learning area itself
will be better served by the intensification and enriching of current
diversity, and not by a mechanical, artificial and short-sighted theoretical
uniformity of its thinking and practice.

2.6 Old and new perspectives that are built into organisational
The knowledge society of the information age has been referred above
as constituting a characterising element of current organisational
contexts. The processes of global competition and the increased pace of
change of market conditions place organisations in challenging
situations. However, that which we are aware of in relation to the so
called knowledge economy is as if the tip of the iceberg of a larger and
more complex whole. One sign of this is the way that the same concept
has simultaneously captured the attention of scholars and researchers, of
politicians and policy makers, and of managers and organisational
practitioners. It is seldom the case that this kind of phenomena occurs
because knowledge does not flow easily across highly territorial spheres
such as research centres, political institutions and market organisations.
In March 2000, when Portugal had the presidency of the European
Union, the later called Lisbons Strategy was defined and launched. The
political objective for the European region was double-fold: to become the
most developed knowledge economy in the world in ten years time, and
to achieve social cohesion at internal level. Nearly at the end of the
period defined as being necessary to achieve the desired goals, there are
not many overwhelming results that may confidently lead to a possible
However, more than objective criteria that can help politicians to fine tune
their policies, it is critical to acknowledge the gigantic step that it means

having as a common objective the need to share and disseminate

knowledge within and across borders, within and across disciplines,
institutions, departments, schools, organisations, teams and individuals.
The motto of knowledge creation and sharing has become generalised.
As knowledge acquisition, knowledge creation and knowledge
dissemination are inseparably related to learning, then, within a
knowledge focused context, learning becomes an unavoidable capability
that must be mastered. The intangible and implicit nature of tacit
knowledge implies that only within a community, and through the
practices and experiences at community level, is it possible to develop
and share these learning competencies and capabilities. That is, if
knowledge, in particular in its tacit form, is considered as being essential,
then learning, in particular the learning that occurs in organisational
communities, becomes central.
This brief account has the objective of highlighting the natural relations
that exist between organisational learning and other theoretical areas that
have been developed in order to answer the challenges posed by the
context of the knowledge economy. The links between organisational
learning and knowledge management and communities of practice theory
are important because they share a common historical context and, in
many aspects, may complement and enrich one another. More
importantly, sharing the position of being all relatively recent theoretical
developments, within the broad areas of management science and of
organisation theory, their own innovations may point the way to future


developments in terms of innovating management theory itself, in

particular breakthrough management theory innovation.
Besides acknowledging the importance of parallel contemporary fields of
study in management and organisation theory, it is critical to highlight the
foundational roots of organisational learning itself, that is, the early
developments of widely diverse theoretical efforts that gradually
influenced the emergence of organisational learning as an autonomous
knowledge area. These different influences are still active and they result
in different strands or niches within the broad spectrum of organisational
learning perspectives.
2.6.1 Early research traditions
The present sub-section will revise critical contributions to the early
development of organisational learning theory. The influence of systems
thinking, in general, has had a deep impact in the development of
organisational learning theories. Pawlosky (2001) states that systemsdynamics, which originated in population analysis, has been influential in
Senges (1990) work on organisational learning. Furthermore, this author
connects Senges propositions about systems archetypes as being
based on assumptions resulting from a reflection about higher-order
rules, linked to Batesons (1973) Type II and Type III learning.
Garrat (1995) states that all the necessary conditions to create both the
intellectual and practical basis of a learning organisation were in place in
1947, when G. Vickers (1965), R. Revans, F. Schumacker and J.
Bronowski, developed key organisational insights such as the concept of

appreciative systems. The notion of appreciative inquiry (Vickers, 1965)

and the development of the concept of appreciative systems is a
research tradition that is still active today (e.g. Cooperrider et al, 2001).
G. Vickers coined the term appreciative systems as a form of
appreciative inquiry and Churchman (1971) developed a philosophical
account of enquiring systems. Peter Checkland (1984, 1999), who
developed the soft systems methodology - that focuses on the human
and on the social aspects of organisational information systems
development - recognises the importance of appreciative systems
thinking in the development of his methodology. Checkland argues that
neither of these approaches, i.e. appreciative systems and soft systems
methodology, takes a functionalist perspective on organisations, as they
both may be considered to be part of the phenomenological tradition of
social science.
Shani and Docherty (2003) identify appreciative inquiry theory as playing
a major role in organisational learning theory building. According to
Vickers (1965), appreciative systems incorporate a judgement process
that is not based on rigid standards but rather arises from the history of
the appreciative system itself, as a learning form. The system is a
process whose products, that are cultural manifestations, condition the
process itself. Vickers (1965) therefore considers appreciative systems
as being learning systems and he claims that the basic social experience,
at whatever level, is a learning process.


Another critical influence to the development of organisational learning

theories is the research tradition of socio-technical systems (Obholzer
and Roberts, 1994). The research conducted in the post-war era at the
Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in London was one of the imports
from the social sciences that underpinned socio-psychological thinking.
The particular application of open systems theory to the work of the
Institute was substantially the contribution of A. Rice, later working with
E. Miller (Emery and Trist, 1969). Trist coined the term socio-technical
in order to describe the interrelations and connections between the
social, technical and environmental systems of organisations. The central
principle is of joint optimisation of the different systems, such as when the
social and technical systems are designed to fit the demands of each
other and of the environment. Emery and Trists (1969) work is a
landmark in the field of organisational design, change, and development,
as it represents the first attempt to introduce flexible learning forms of
organisation into the world of work. Obholzer and Roberts (1994) argue
that the concept of self-regulating work group and the idea that
differences in group organisation reflect unconscious motives, that also
affect the subjective experience of the work, is a central part of the sociotechnical methodology.
Other authors have highlighted the influence of psychoanalytical theory in
the early development of organisational learning. Namely, Pedler et al
(1997) have acknowledged the contributions of R. Harrison (1995) to the
field of organisational learning for his insights in stressing the positive


role that defensive behaviours and organisational healing can play in

creating a learning organisation.
There is a wide range of influences present in the development of
organisational learning theories, and Senge (1990) explicitly refers to the
work of W. Deming (1986), the quality movement guru, as being
embedded in a management philosophy that was essentially about
creating a learning organisation, though the terminology had a quality
focus. Senge traces this influence back to the works of J. Dewey (1938),
the American philosopher and educator who developed the theoretical
roots to such concepts as experiential learning and lifelong learning.
Senge (1990) also stresses the importance of the intellectual
contributions of Argyris and Schn (1978) in translating G. Batesons
(1973) groundbreaking three levels of learning and the ecology of the
mind into the organisational context with their concepts of single-loop,
double-loop and deutero-learning.
2.6.2 Different organisational learning perspectives
These different influences and research traditions shaped different
organisational learning perspectives.
According to Argyris and Schns (1978) model, single-loop learning
corresponds to choices of action that are based on given mental models;
double-loop learning implies reflection and questioning what has been
previously taken for granted; and deutero-learning implies learning to
learn better, thus improving the quality of the learning process itself.

Senges (1990) model of the learning organisation was based on five

disciplines: personal mastery, or the capacity to create results; mental
models, or how actions are shaped; shared vision, group commitment
and guiding principles; team learning, or conversational and collective
thinking skills; and systems thinking. Senges model, though the most
popular, has other parallel models.
Besides Argyris and Schns (1978) model of organisational learning
based on the three loops or levels of learning, and Senges (1990) model
based on five disciplines, there is a wide variety of other models.
Garvin (1993, 2000) defines the learning organisation as skilled in
creating, acquiring, transferring knowledge, and at modifying its
behaviour to reflect new knowledge and insights.
Watckins and Marsick (1994) define the learning organisation as one that
learns and continuously transforms itself. Kilmann (1996) defines it as an
organisation that describes, controls and improves the processes by
which knowledge is created, acquired, distributed, interpreted, stored,
retrieved and used for the purpose of achieving long-term organisational
Other closely related concepts are Nonakas (1991, Nonaka and
Techeuchi, 1995) model that defines the knowledge-creating company as
creating, disseminating and embodying new knowledge.
Pedler, Burgoyne and Boydell (1991) describe the learning company,
using the term company as being less mechanical than organisation

and focusing on the idea of any group of people being in company. They
define it as an organisation that facilitates the learning of all its members
and consciously transforms itself and its context.
Boisot (1998) focuses on the concept of knowledge as an asset that is a
key source of competitive advantages within the context of the
information age. Innovation, learning and knowledge leverage are crucial
for the competitive edge of knowledge-intensive firms (Ojanen, Hallikas,
De Geus (1997) defines the living company as having a personality that
allows it to evolve harmoniously, knowing who they are, understand how
they fit in the world, value new ideas and new people, and husband their
money in a way that allows them to govern their future.
2.6.3 Five streams of development
Shani and Docherty (2003), have identified four different streams or
schools of thought that have chronologically influenced the field of
organisational learning. The first and second streams go back to the
1940s and 1950s work developed at the Tavistock Institute in London, as
was referred above.
The first stream focused on the design of organisational systems that
would optimise the relationships between the environment, and the
technical and social organisational sub-systems, as was already
explained. Many of the socio-technical system school theorists, such as
F. Emery (Emery, Trist, 1969), E. Trist, B. Pasmore and J. Taylor,

continued to define and refine learning at the team and organisational

The second stream, developed during the 1950s and 1960s when a
group of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University started to work on
how organisations make choices, and focused on understanding the
phenomenon of decision-making. This view of organisations as goaloriented and decision-making entities was led by H. Simon (1996), R.
Cyert, and J. March, who continued the conceptual development work
articulating new insights and new models of ambiguity, risk-taking and
adaptive learning. Simons work on boundary rationality and on decision
making granted him the economics Nobel prize.
The work of Argyris, starting in the late 1960s, corresponds to the third
stream and that of P. Senge, starting in the early 1990s is the fourth and
most powerful one in terms of popularity, according to these authors.
To recapitulate, and according to Shani and Docherty (2003), a possible
grouping of organisational learning perspectives in four chronological
phases is the socio-technical, then the decision-making focus, followed
by the single- double-loop learning distinction and, finally, the learning
organisation as an explicit concept, theory and organisational practice.
It is possible to add to this scheme, as a fifth phase, the critical
contribution of the sociological perspective on organisational learning that
was developed in parallel to the dominant perspectives, i.e. the social
tradition of organisational learning that emerged in the early 90s (e.g.,

Cook and Yanow, 1993; Yanow, 2001, 2004 and 2006; Cook and Brown,
1999; Gherardi et al, 1998; Gherardi and Nicolini, 2001; Elkjaer, 1999,
2003 and 2007; Blackler et al, 2000).
A critical characteristic of these developments in the sociological
perspective of organisational learning is its philosophical and
epistemological standing, that is, (i) the ontological, (ii) the socially
constructed and embodied, and (iii) the practice and experience based
embedded notion of knowledge and learning. These aspects contrast
with the dominant and mainstream perspective of a cognitivist and
individual focused approach to knowledge and learning that is prevalent
both in general management theory and in organisational learning theory.
Easterby-Smith and Arajo (1999) state that the trend within the
development of the field of organisational learning is the strengthening of
the social perspective and the evolution of methodologies that enable it to
be investigated empirically. They assert that there was already a reliance
on qualitative and ethnographic research methods (e.g., Cook and
Yanow, 1993; Gherardi et al, 1998), and that there is a growing interest in
the use of linguistic and narrative methods for researching learning
processes within organisations. This social tradition of organisational
learning represents a major breakthrough in terms of opening up new
possibilities for further development, both at practical and at theoretical
Gherardi and Nicolini (2001) focus on organisational learning from a
sociological perspective and they use reflexivity and participation as two

central concepts for the understanding of the organisational learning

process. These authors argue that, from this perspective, reflexivity is not
restricted to a cognitive process but rather includes a hermeneutic
process of interpretation, intuition and imagination. According to Elkjaer
(2003), also a social theorist, the emergence of organisational learning
literature based on social learning theory grows out of a critique of the
organisational learning research based upon individual learning
The relationship between knowledge and learning is critical. Knowledge
involves explicit and easily shared aspects, such as the items of a
manual, and also tacit and subjective aspects that may only be shared
through practical experience, as Polanyi (1958) argues. The importance
of tacit aspects has sustained experience-based approaches to
organisational learning (e.g., Gherardi, 2006, Pruett and Thomas, 2008).
The bringing together the various sources, motivations and inspirations to
the development of the organisational learning field serves the purpose of
acknowledging the inter-relatedness between management techniques,
philosophical influences and organisational practices that shaped the
developmental process of this knowledge area.

2.7 Schools of thought and epistemic influences

In order to better understand the challenges that organisational learning
theory and practice currently face it is necessary to briefly review certain
key aspects of the development of modern and post-modern thinking. As

has been argued above, no scientific development, including

organisational learning theory building, is detached from the constantly
changing dynamism of thought creation as is performed by different, and
often contradictory, schools of thought and research traditions.
2.7.1 Historical developments
The study of organisations, both their present state and their possible
developmental patterns, cannot be divorced from the acknowledgement
of the post-modern and transitional phase that the Western world is going
through. Historical epochs may only be recognised a posteriori and they
relate to diffuse chronological patterns. There are no consensual and
unique definitions of what modernity is and when it started. Modern
Humanism, the Reform and the Renascence cultural movements
symbolised a break with Medieval times that had implications at social,
political and economic levels. Gutenbergs creation of the printing press
in Europe in 1450 enabled the dissemination of these ideas that
symbolised the emergence of modern age.
The Enlightenment movement with its rationalism and unlimited belief in
the power of reason and of logical rational thought developed in the
eighteenth century as the result of the earlier centuries ideas of modern
thinkers (Gorniak, 2004). The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
industrial revolution was the technical consequence of modern scientific
developments, i.e. the result of fifteenth centurys break with or, rather,
reinterpretation and development of the Medieval ages cosmology and
world views.

Kant and Hegels idealism and Benthams utilitarism formed the

philosophical underpinnings of the Enlightenment movement and of its
confidence that scientific progress would solve the problems of humanity
(Gorniak, 2004). Scientific reason, under the Enlightenment perspective,
corresponded to the maximum degree of rationality. Marxism is also often
considered to be a child of the Enlightenment because of its confident
beliefs in reason and the reliability of its scientific deterministic
predictions. However, this assertion is probably more related to the way
that Marx has been read than with his original thought (Ricoeur, 1981).
Modern hermeneutics relies on Hegel and on Marxs philosophy not as
utopian or deterministic but rather as creative, open and transformative
philosophical approaches.
2.7.2 The philosophers of the suspect
The rationality and progress driven vision of the Enlightenment was
radically challenged by Friedrich Nietzsche [1844-1900] who is
considered to be by many as the first post-modern philosopher (Delanty
and Strydom, 2003). Nietzsche followed the paths of Arthur
Schopenhauer [1788-1860] and of his scepticism towards the
Enlightenment programme and heritage. Both philosophers focused on
the phenomenal world and on the existence of a constant energetic
struggle that Nietzsche called will to power. The argument was that this
state of continuous strife implied a form of conflict that was creative and


The Enlightenments reliance on rationality, on knowledge and on

meaning as fixed and truthful is thus rejected and, instead, there is the
acknowledgement of the provisory, temptative and socially determined
nature of all knowledge, values and beliefs. Nietzsche deconstructs what
seems natural and is taken for granted in his genealogies as the product
of constructions based on specific interests. This applies even, or
particularly so, when there is no awareness of the existence of such
interests. Nietzsches work was not recognised by his contemporaries
though it was later largely influential in the works of Foucault, Sartre and
Heidegger, and on the works of overtly post-modern philosophers such
as Derrida, Deleuze, Lyotard and Rorty.
The philosophers of the suspect - Freud, Marx, and Nietzsche - fought
against the world-views of their times and each one of them developed a
theoretical approach that brought forward radical alternative
conceptualisations and world views (Alvesson and Skldberg, 2000).
Nietzsche claimed the death of God. Marx called attention to the role of
social classes in defining practices and mentalities. And Freud brought
into question the assumed notion that mental health problems were fixed
and given thus could not be changed or treated. Freuds theoretical
contribution was possible because he challenged this rigid and static
perspective. However, as happened with Nietzsche and Marx, in order to
propose and devise an alternative approach he had to completely
reformulate the dominant and mainstream epistemological standings.
Freuds introduction of the idea of the unconscious, and of pressures and
powers that determine our action and thought processes, even before we

are aware of their existence has radically challenged the Cartesian

dominant view of human beings as autonomous and rational individuals,
in terms of a direct and linear form of rationality. Marxs theory of the
social classes struggle called attention to the social determinations that
affect all individuals, and that culturally condition them through commonly
espoused beliefs, attitudes and value systems. In marxist theory, a
revolution was needed to free individuals from their social determinations,
and to incur in a transformation at societal level. Nietzsches rejection of
the conventional idea of God and of the manipulation that political
interests made of this idea implied that he positioned human beings as
having an active, critical and constructive role to play in transforming
reality and in changing society.
These three philosophers of the suspect, with their questions and
suspicions, are still influential today through the need to constantly revise
the taken for granted and assumed to be true beliefs of each time period.
As Gorniak (2004) argues, management and organisation science, in
terms of its traditional and mainstream approaches, is heavily influenced
by Kantian rationalism, by Benthams utilitarism, and by functionalistic
perspectives that result in a preponderance for an emphasis on
quantitative objectives, and on performance, efficiency and effectiveness.
Whether these emphases are enough, or whether it is necessary to
search beyond effectiveness and to understand how this same
effectiveness may be achieved while achieving other objectives in terms
of realitys potential, is still an open question. Nevertheless, it is the role
of researchers, and of organisation theory scholars and practitioners to

answer these open challenges, and therefore it is critical to bring the

different options available into open discussion.
2.7.3 The action- and thought-possibilities of organisational learning
The above and brief description of the modern age origins and of the
transitional nature of the period that the Western world is going through in
the early twenty-first century has the objective of calling attention to the
possibilities that are open to the development of the organisational
learning field.
These possibilities are better understood through the lens of Karl
Jaspers (1971) concepts, that correspond to what he called thoughtpossibilities and action-possibilities. Society as a whole takes for granted
a set of assumptions that critically determine its action-possibilities and
thought-possibilities, to use Karl Jaspers expressions. Jasper draws on
Max Webers historical analysis: Webers analysis was developed in a
way that aimed at understanding the particular historical context of a
situation, so that the horizons of possibilities that were available at that
time could be broadly identified. The idea is that the choices available in
terms of action and of thought depend on the contexts where that action
and that thought take place. There is as if a background scenario that is
consistent with a certain pattern of action and thought. This horizon of
possible and implicit choices is what Jaspers refers to as actionpossibilities and thought-possibilities.
This idea is crucial to the identification of the research possibilities that
are open to the development of organisational learning as a field of

research. In the same way that each society, and that each organisation,
develops according to the possibilities that it has available, a research
area also follows the same pattern. The rationale is that each
organisation or each society - consists on a specific context that
implicitly determines a particular dynamism, that of the action-possibilities
and thought-possibilities that it has available. When interpreting an
organisation, any organisation, as an organisation process it is possible
to consider the possibility of improving the process itself as a
developmental dynamism, and therefore distending its action- and
thought-possibilities. It is at this process of development that the
objective of promoting a better understanding of organisational reality
aims at. Therefore, identifying the possibilities for development of
organisational learning implies, as well as enables, a better
understanding of organisational reality itself.
2.7.4 The modernity and the post-modern heritage in defining
knowledge and learning
Identifying different schools of thought that influence current
developments in organisation theory, implies acknowledging both the
modernist and post-modern heritage. The influences of modernity are
related to rationalist ideas that interpret rationality in linear and direct
terms, that focus on single level relationships, on cause-effect
mechanisms and that distinctly separate reality in dual forms: subject and
object; body and mind; theory and practice; interior and exterior;
individual and social; formal and informal; etc.. In the modernity school of
thought, there is a prevalence for quantification and measurement, and a

disregard for quality and for subjectivity. Finally, there is a strong reliance
on the hypothetical-deductive model of scientific reasoning, and on a
methodology that divides reality into smaller parts that may be analysed
and studied independently. Examples of this epistemological position,
that rose on the third quarter of the twentieth century, are both systems
thinking, that developed in many scientific areas, from population studies,
to information systems and management, and also structuralism, that
developed in anthropological, sociological and philosophical areas. Both
systems thinking and structuralism share the same interest in defining
exact and direct relationships taking into account a single level of
To continue this line of reasoning, post-systems thinking (e.g., Staceys,
2001, complex processes of relating) and post-structuralism (e.g.,
Foucaults theory of discursive formations) belong to post-modern
schools of thought. These are characterised by acknowledging the whole
and the complex, thus taking a holistic and a systemic perspective. They
do not divide and partition in order to reach a direct solution but rather
seek a complex approach, one that takes in consideration multiple levels
of analysis, multiple interpretations, and that takes into account questions
of meaning, power, conflict and paradox.
Many of the developments in the sociological perspective of
organisational learning the social tradition of organisational learning can be said to belong to the post-modern school of thought. The
importance of ontology, hermeneutics, and complexity theory in
organisational learning studies witnesses this influence. In

epistemological terms, post-modern thinking tends to be related to social

constructivist perspectives while modernism is more often connected to
positivist epistemic positions.
Since the seventeenth century there has been a growth in interest in
knowledge and cognition that rose from the earlier development of
modern science in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Knowledge had
always been important to humankind but this knowledge was previously
understood as being implicitly contextualised and embedded, while in
modern age it acquired as if a life of its own, independent and
autonomous from the contexts from which it emerged. In technical terms,
the epistemological question - of knowledge about knowledge - gained
precedence above the ontological question - of who and what is this
being, a being that corresponds to reality manifesting itself (Guignon,
1983). However, any epistemology, as any knowledge construct, is
based on certain ontological assumptions, and though these may be
unacknowledged and unidentified they can never stop being present.
Therefore, the argument goes that the dominance of epistemic concerns
over ontological ones, that has been present since the origins of
modernity and that is still prevalent today, needs to be balanced in favour
of further comprehension of reality as a whole.
Within an organisational context the difference between an (a) epistemic
and an (b) ontological focus may be visible in the shift in interest from (a)
knowledge processes interpreted as being independent and autonomous,
as opposed to (b) being the product of particular contexts, and to being
embedded and emergent from these contexts. A typical example of this

difference in perspectives is how meaning and meaning creation is

interpreted. According to an epistemic standing, meaning can be
analysed per se and independently from the particular context from which
it emerged. From an ontological perspective, however, meaning analysed
as such is not an attractive issue, and it is the particular context and the
specific process of embeddeness and of emergence of meaning that it is
critical to interpret and to focus on. More importantly, in an ontological
approach there is no separation of the subject and object because the
focus is instead on the being-in-the-world instance (Heidegger, 1962) as
a continual process of being and of becoming.
Strategy, knowledge, organisational objectives or organisational mission
are all examples from a management context of a possible dichotomy
between an epistemic and an ontological approach. It is possible to
interpret these as static and independent concepts or, instead, to
interpret them in a way that takes into account their determination, the
way that they were developed and the process itself that led to their
determination. The importance of this distinction is that this later
interpretation enables the process itself to be improved and therefore
may lead to better results, in a continual improvement manner.
Both perspectives, the epistemological and the ontological, serve their
own purposes and cannot be compared as an either/or question. It is
critical to stress that all epistemological positions implicitly assume
certain ontological presuppositions and therefore it is relevant that these
assumptions are expressed, identified and acknowledged.

To go back to the stated above objective of seeking ways to develop

organisational learning theory building, and of improving the
understanding of organisation reality, the goal is to focus on the
ontological perspective or at least to make explicit the ontological
assumptions implicit in any epistemological considerations. Does this
deny the importance of epistemological contributions? No, it forces these
to acknowledge their taken for granted assumptions and, when
necessary, to revise and to adjust them according to the action- and
thought-possibilities available.
The dominant and prevalent presence of cognitivist and of individual
focused theories in current management and organisation theory is an
example of the influence of modernism in mainstream thinking, with its
rationalist and utilitarist body of ideas, and its functionalistic and
instrumental rationality. The emergence of post-modern trends is still
marginal to dominant thinking. The challenge is to gradually discern their
differences, their advantages and disadvantages, and to recognise the
central role of ontological perspectives because it is from these that
epistemological ones may be of value and may reach their full potential.
2.7.5 Synthesis of the epistemic shifts in organisational learning
The argument that has been developed is the following: (1)
organisational learning, together with other management and
organisation theories, has been dominated by ontological implicit
assumptions that divide the individual and the social, and therefore fail to
recognise the embedded, embodied, contextual and socially constructed

process of learning, and of knowledge and meaning creation; (2) though

there is a fertile publication of post-modernist inspired organisation
studies, these rarely reach the transformation of organisational and of
management practices because of the overwhelming preponderance,
and exhaustiveness, of epistemological and rationalistic world views; (3)
the idea of interpreting reality in terms of fixed and closed mentalistic
images denies the ontological manifestation potential of all reality, and
the prevalence of cognitivist perspectives in organisational contexts fuels
and illustrates this situation; (4) in the name of the promotion of
organisational learning theory building and practice enhancing, it is
critical to acknowledge current action- and thought-possibilities, and to
explore alternative theoretical positions that may enable an expansion of
present horizons of thinking and acting at organisational level.

2.8 Key insights from the social tradition of

organisational learning
The social tradition of organisational learning has a vast and largely
unexplored potential in terms of the practical benefits that it may bring to
create and sustain effective organisational learning practices.
Both management theories, which focus on achieving results, and
organisation theories, that focus on the logic and structure, i.e. the
organisation, that is behind those results, are gradually showing a new
interest in the social aspects of human interaction. This is critically
relevant for knowledge-intensive organisations or network, knowledgedriven or knowledge-based organisations.

These insights into organisational complexity are typical of the social

tradition of organisational learning. Learning is a means of interpreting
changes, as Hoy (2008) argues. Hosking, Dachler and Gergen (1995)
argue for the need for relational alternatives to individualism. Eikeland
(2005) describes his attraction for learning and knowledge, a learning
passion, based on Aristotle, as some kind of pre-figuration of necessary
practical ideals (Eikeland, 2005). Social approaches typically draw on
philosophical grounding.
Batesons (1973) theory of the levels of learning influenced Argyris and
Schns work (e.g., Argyris and Schn, 1978). However, Batesons
theory is holistic and recognises the importante of both cognitivist and
social oriented perspectives. In Batesons theory, the levels of learning
combine cognitive, embodied and aesthetic dimensions. (Tosey and
Mathison, 2008). These authors stress the emphasis on the notion of
context, in line with the social tradition approach. Lawrence (2008)
bridges hard and soft aspects: Organisational learning is the process by
which the collective members of a firm acquire and use knowledge and
insights. (...) At DGL, management focused simultaneously on the hard
and soft sides of the business in other words, increasing economic
value while transforming its culture. (Lawrence, 2008).
The significance of studying routines embedded in inter-organisational
learning has been stressed as a key element in understanding the
development of relationships (Ojanen and Hallikas, 2009). Current
research places a high focus on the importance of the social
organisational factors.

Hallikas (et al, 2009) argue that innovation is the most knowledge
intensive and complex process in organisations, meaning that it is among
the most challenging and critical processes from the standpoint of new
knowledge creation and effective learning. Several authors have
emphasised the collective nature of learning. If training is to be
personally and organisationally effective, it needs to be part of a
participative process. (Summerfield and Kingsnorth, 2009).
Moynihan et al (2008) focus on learning in networks, defining learning as
the identification and the embedding of practices and behaviours. They
state that learning is shaped by the distribution of power and the
negotiation of bargains. (2008). The recognition of the role of power is
typically from a social theory stance.
According to Pruett and Thomas (2008) complexity approaches are
critical for the development of practice-based organisational knowledge.
Communities of practice critically acknowledge their social nature:
Communities construct their life and social identity through dynamic
processes, embedded in rich social contexts. (Mandelli, 2007).
A social perspective is intrinsically sensitive to power relations:
Organisations need power structures, hierarchies and other sort of
inequalities. However, symmetric relations are also needed, at least for
providing commitment and learning between people. (Puutio et al, 2008).
Antal et al (2001) refer that the intellectual innovativeness of the
organisational learning field was fuelled largely by scholars who were

attracted to the exploration of what often appeared to be peripheral, even

unorthodox, questions in their disciplines. The social tradition of
organisational learning addresses ambivalent aspects of organisations,
such as power, conflict, social discourse, social subjectivity and paradox.
Sociocultural theories of learning provide conceptual tools for
understanding the social nature of learning. (Tynjl, Hkkinen, 2005).
The theory of the cultural perspective on organisational learning was one
of the earliest to emerge: Much of organisational learning, in our view, is
tacit, occasioned through experiences of the artefacts of the
organisations culture that are part of its daily work. (Cook, Yanow,
The recognition of the critical importance of language and of social
discourse in the social sciences (e.g., Foucault, 1972, Bourdieu, 1977,
1990) was a landmark in the development of social perspectives on
organisational learning. Post-modernism and the French post-structuralist
school (e.g., Derrida, 1978, Foucault, 1972) have crucially influenced the
development of organisational learning social theories. The social
tradition assumed a direct influence of key philosophical works, namely
social constructionism (Berger, Luckmann, 1967), pragmatism (Peirce,
1931), and Heideggers (1962) ontology.
Yanow (1999) explicitly acknowledges the influence of post-modern
philosophy, including of phenomenology and hermeneutics, and Gherardi
and Nicolini (2001) and Bartel and Garup (2003) that of semiotics. The
constructivist epistemology stresses the importance of language in the

social construction of reality, as the medium of such social construction

(Czarniawska-Joerges, 1991). Fox (1997) sustains that the then
emergent situated learning theory was part of a post-modern
epistemology whilst traditional cognitive learning theory was
characteristically modern. Scientific knowledge is propositional, taking
the form of generalisations. However, a large part of the knowledge used
by managers does not assume this form but rather takes the form of
narrative or experiential knowledge the kind of knowledge that comes
from experience and is incorporated into stories and narratives.
Experiential-based approaches to organisational learning explore this
distinction between propositional and narrative forms of knowledge,
which is closely related to the developments in philosophy of language
(e.g., Martinich, 1997). Dierkes, Antal, Child, and Nonaka (2001), call
attention to the increasing importance of language, in particular among
authors influenced by post-modernist theory. It is important to stress
Yanows (1999) comments relating learning with story-telling, narratives,
memory and identity, and her reference to Frankls (1970) logotherapy,
which focuses on searching and finding the meaning of life at a personal
The social tradition of organisational learning developed as a reaction
against the dominance of cognitivist perspectives and also as a
continuation of organisational culture post-modernist earlier work
(Henriksson, 2000).


2.9 Philosophical underpinnings of a social approach

There is a fundamental shift in focus in the interpretation performed by
the social learning theories. The social learning tradition implies a change
to the term knowledge as knowledge becomes embedded or situated
knowledge of the organisation, and not something stored in books,
brains, and information systems (Cook and Brown, 1999). Thus, the
social relations dimension gains an overriding importance. Learning is
always situated in the sphere of social interaction (Gherardi and Nicolini,
2001). In a social constructionist approach, organisational learning is
seen as situated and knowing is seen as heterogeneous and
fragmented (Gherardi and Nicolini, 2001). The social learning theory
emphasises informality, improvisation, collective action, conversation
and sense-making and it interprets learning as having a distributed and
provisional nature (Elkjaer, 2003). Elkjaer stresses the importance of
American pragmatism and symbolic interaction to the understanding of
social learning, and describes a third way for organisational learning.
The social tradition critically incorporates the notions of practice-based
learning and of experiential learning (e.g., Gherardi and Nicolini, 2001;
Cook and Brown, 1999). These notions are deeply rooted in social
philosophy contributions, ranging from Heideggers (1962) ontology and
the notion of being-in-the-world, to Peirces (1931) and Deweys (1938)
pragmatism. Social perspectives on organisational learning
fundamentally highlight the role of social contexts and of social and
discursive practices, at community level, as being the kernel meaningmaking processes which constitute learning.

In a constructivist epistemology society is constituted in and by the

interpretative practices of its members. (Gherardi and Nicolini, 2001).
Social construction of reality is the process of continuous negotiation
which produces what Thomas (1928, cited in Gherardi and Nicolini, 2001)
calls definitions of the situation. Thomas (1928) argues that if one
defines a situation as real then it is real in its consequences, so that
social life has the tendency to become whatever people think it is, i.e.,
reality is socially constructed.
Eikeland (2005), interpreting the social turn in organisational learning,
acknowledges the influence of the works of Aristotle and of other
philosophers. Eikeland broadly positions organisational learning within
critical studies and the methodology of social research. He specifically
relates organisational learning with action research, adult learning, work
place learning, and sociocultural and apprentice learning. Eikeland
decisively grounds organisational learning social approaches in sociophilosophical thinking. The influences of Vico, Peirce, Dewey, Heidegger,
Wittgenstein and Polanyi are also recognised in the present research
project. Eikeland stresses the importance of action research in the
organisational learning field. This is recognised by several authors,
namely through the notion of action learning (e.g., Horan, 2007) and
within practice-based projects that apply collaborative action research
(e.g., Shah et al, 2007, Bryan et al, 2007). The links between theory and
practice are critically assumed to be relevant in Eikelands research.
The works of Vickers (1965) on appreciative systems, of Emery and
Thrist on socio-technical systems, of Board (1978), Obholzer and

Roberts (1994) on organisational psychoanalysis have influenced the

development of post-modern organisation research. Several authors
illustrate the connection between the social tradition of organisations and
philosophy. Kpers (2005) argues for a phenomenology of embodied,
implicit and narrative knowing in organisations and shows the
significance of experiential dimensions based on the advanced
phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty (1962).
Phenomenologically, all knowing is realised through embodied acting
and experiential processes of enactment. (Kpers, 2005). This
perspective highlights the importance of social philosophy in terms of
promoting a greater understanding of organisational knowledge.
Knowledge is created and reproduced within powerful historical,
embodied, emotional and social relations. (Kpers, 2005). The
importance of context and the contributions from post-modernist authors
is critically recognised in social approaches to organisational learning and
knowledge. Like a textile of traces, the threads of the context refer
endlessly to something other than itself, to other differential traces
(Derrida, 1979). Similar to the deconstructionists much misunderstood
assertion, one can say: there is no-outside-context (Kpers, 2005).
Jacobs and Coghlan (2005) explicitly use a phenomenological approach
to organisational learning focusing on intersubjective meaning
generation, also based on the works of Merleau-Ponty (1962). These
authors stress the importance of the insights from action research and of
the early work of Kurt Lewin (1951). They state that much of what Lewin
understood to be central to the complex process of reeducation is critical

to the process of change and organisational learning, and underlies the

philosophical principles and practice of action research. Related to action
research is Mode 2 research, i.e. that which is co-produced with
practitioners in a rigorous yet actionable way. (Burgoyne and James,
2006). These authors explore the concept of management research
understood as design science. This perspective critically links theory
and practice, as occurs in organisational learning social tradition. Rutter
(2003) argues that certain real life situations cannot be solved by
traditional strategic management approaches and they describe an action
research project based on management learning, constructivism,
interpretivism, enactment and facilitation. This kind of social approach to
organisational learning is described as being adequate to situations
where conventional management strategies are not suitable or are
rejected by practitioners.
Hoy (2008), writing in the organisational learning field, comments that
scholars should be wary of defaulting to the dominant paradigms of their
fields. This assertion is in line with Hasans (e.g. 1999, Hasan, Webster,
2005) distinction of theories that are exotropic and endotropic terms
related to the visual physiology metaphor of, respectively, divergent and
convergent forms of strabismus, in which one or both eyes deviate
outward (exo) or inward (endo). According to this social semiotic
perspective, Chomskian linguistics is an example of an endotropic theory
and Vygotsky, Halliday and Bernsteins theories are examples of
exotropic ones, as they stress their social origins and thus keep a wide
and open horizon.

2.10 The Semiotic Learning methodology and framework

Organisational learning has gradually gained wide recognition among
researchers and practitioners. The Semiotic Learning approach (Nobre,
2004a, 2004b, 2007a, 2007b, 2008a, 2008b) follows the social tradition
of organisational learning and explores the connections between social
theory and organisational practice. This methodology and theoretical
framework aims at facilitating the organisational learning process in
knowledge-intensive organisations. These knowledge-based and network
organisations, as theoretical constructs and as practical realities, are part
of the movement of the knowledge and network economy of the postindustrial information age. The social approach on organisational learning
has the advantage of addressing the socially embedded and embodied
community-level meaning-making processes, which are constitutive of
organisational learning itself.
This framework uses the contributions from three social philosophy
theories: (i) Hallidays (1978) social semiotics, (ii) Peirces (1931)
pragmatism and (iii) Heideggers (1962) ontology. This theoretical
framing has been rarely used in organisational learning research and it
offers rich insights for the understanding of organisational social reality.
The Semiotic Learning Framework incorporates both a theoretical
concept and an applied method. The concept defines organisational
learning as a meaning-making collective process, embodied in the
organisational community and embedded in the organisational discursive
practices. The practical method is an artifact to be applied at small group

level in order to improve organisational social practices. This method is a

learning cycle, composed of four learning-steps, and it was implemented
and tested in four organisations. The results suggested a raise in
awareness towards organisational learning phenomena.
The argument of the Semiotic Learning framework is that raising
awareness towards organisational learning, understood as a signifying
and social process is an essential condition for the promotion of
sustainable results in terms of the effectiveness of organisational learning
practices. Semiotic Learning facilitates organisational learning through
the intensification of the community-level meaning-making processes and
the strengthening of organisational social ties.
Semiotic Learning is the product of a deconstruction exercise on the
basis of organisational learning theory. It incorporates breakthrough
innovations bringing organisational learning to the centre of
organisational theory future development. Rethinking organisational
learning implies reconstructing its foundations and reinventing its
practices. Semiotic Learning is an enactment of such efforts.

2.11 Conclusions
The main message of the current chapter is built on the assertions of
others. Therefore, it agrees with:
Easterby-Smith and Lyles (2003), when they state that the current
diversity of approaches within organisational learning is an advantage


and that it exemplifies the fields richness and its capacity to attract the
attention of researchers from different and interdisciplinary backgrounds;
Easterby-Smith and Arajo (1999), when they stress the importance of
qualitative and ethnographic research methodologies and they point to
the intensification of the social perspective on organisational learning
(e.g. Elkjaer, 1999, 2003; Cook and Brown, 1999; Blackler et al, 2000;
Gherardi et al, 1998; Gherardi and Nicolini, 2001; Yanow, 2001);
Cook and Yanow (1993) when they state that organisational learning, in
our view, is tacit, occasioned through experiences of the artefacts of the
organisations culture that are part of its daily work.; and Yanow (2001),
when she defines learning as a social act of sensemaking; they have
inaugurated the social tradition of organisational learning;
Gherardi and Nicolini (2001), when they develop the sociological
perspective on organisational learning, and call attention to the
complexity of the reflexivity process that largely extents the cognitive
dimension and includes the hermeneutic process of interpretation,
intuition and imagination;
Elkjaer (1999, 2003), when she develops an ontological social theory of
learning, and she states that the emergence of organisational learning
literature based upon social learning theory grows out of a critique of the
organisational learning theories based upon individual learning


The development of a specific methodology that incorporates these

novelties from the social tradition of organisational learning and that
stresses the importance of social philosophy theory, is exemplified by the
Semiotic Learning Framework (e.g., Nobre, 2007a, 2008b).
The question is not that of complementing an individual based
perspective on organisational learning with a social one. The idea of
adding up more slices, more parts to the whole, in a functional way, is
misleading. The critical issue is to recognise the central and determining
role of ontological instances from which all dynamism emerges. The
importance of practice, of communities, of dialogue, of questioning and of
searching is related to the embodied and socially embedded nature of all
knowledge creation, learning and meaning making. It is the recognition of
this dynamic process that enables a deeper understanding of the full
potential of organisational learning theory and practice.
The present chapter has stressed the inherent complexity of the
organisational learnings object of study, the unsustainable lightness of
being of organisational learning. It has revised the central models and
chronological phases of the development of organisational learning
theories, as well as the early perspectives of social psychology research
from which organisational learning theory emerged. It has argued that all
scientific development, including management theory building, is partly
determined by the overall mentalities, world-views and paradigms that
shape each theoretical perspective. The action- and thought-possibilities
of management and organisation theory have been strongly influenced
by modernist ideas such as rationalism and utilitarism. The influences of

post-modern thinking have introduced the issues of complexity, power,

discourse and paradox therefore enabling a more realistic account of
organisational reality. This development is necessary in order to
adequately capture and explain the fundamental ambiguity of
management theory in the knowledge economy context, that of
simultaneously developing effective procedural and formal control
mechanisms whilst allowing an adequate degree of flexibility, innovation
and change. Organisational learning central contribution is precisely its
constituting characteristic of bridging both formal and informal sides of
organisational reality. Therefore the strengthening of this field of study is
critical to the further development of organisational theory and practice.

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Chapter 3
A new learning oriented leadership paradigm to facilitate
the development of a second generation learning

Dr. Daniel Belet

3.1 Introduction
The core theme of this book deals with the concept of learning
organisation (L.O.) which emerged in the early 90s. A major reason of
its limited impact up to now, especially among business companies,
appears to be caused by a misunderstanding of its deep leadership
change requirement.
The concept of L.O. has a strategic importance for the today - and even
more for the tomorrow - organizations because it is actually linked to the
organizational change dynamics. It also aims at the progress and the
renewal of the leadership thought and practices which have been rather
weak and very shy for more than half a century despite a huge
management literature and some innovative field experiences of various
types of organizations.
For the observers of the evolution of this management concept and its
practical implementation within organizations, it clearly appears that the

first generation approaches were pretty limited, partial and often not very
successful. In fact, they only lead to superficial or cosmetic changes
within the organizations claiming to embrace this change model with
often no significant better business performances nor significant
improvements but rather new management problems So, the L.O.
concept often appeared to top managers only as a management fad
among many others, with a short life cycle, which deserved only a limited
and temporary attention. In addition to this it can be noticed that its real
meaning was generally neither well understood nor correctly and
thouroughly implemented by most top management executives who
claimed their interest for it.
For instance, some special efforts were made by some companies with
individual training / learning, some team learning processes were
developed, some knowledge management tools were implemented, but
very rarely with a global consistency at the corporate level and with
commitments to follow a new learning oriented management and
leadership model as for example, P. Senge advocated in his first well
known book of the early 90s: The Fifth Discipline .
It appears more and more clearly today that becoming a better L.O. is the
only correct answer to the present and to future - challenges of most
business companies in order to produce higher and more sustainable
financial, social and environmental performances within an increasingly
competitive world as well as in an emerging knowledge based economy.


However, we can notice that the L.O. concept proposed more than 15
year ago, such as the Senges model, despite their strong interest, did
not have the practical impact we could have expected on the
management and leadership world. Therefore, we can wonder why ?
There are three main reasons to this limited success. First this first
generation L.O. model despite its conceptual attraction appears pretty
theoretical and difficult to implement. Second it does not emphasize
enough the in depth transformations of the leadership culture and
practices that it requires within the whole organization. It does mean a
quite new way of leading and managing people from the top
management and the whole hierarchy. Third it involves a new power
sharing scheme within the organization that most top management are
not prepare to adopt because of their own interest
So a major question today is : how to develop a second generation
L.O. which can successfully achieve an in depth transformation of the
whole organization through new people management and leadership
practices in order to turn it progressively into a true operating L.O. ?
In this chapter we will try to bring about some answers to this difficult
question. Our main point is that such a second generation L.O. must
first and above all be inspired by another kind of leadership paradigm.
This should translate into a new learning oriented leadership culture as
well as specific daily leadership practices focused on fostering individual
and collective learning dynamics.This leadership model will have to be
based on a spirit of trust and liberty as well as on individual and team

support and service. These are the key factors to unleash the individual
and collective energies and intelligence and to facilitate more successful
cooperation as well as increased efficiency, innovations and
performances of the organization.
So, the development of a second generation L.O. is first a major
challenge for the mainstream model of leadership which has to be
transformed into a new learning oriented leadership paradigm aligned
and consistent with the L.O. concept and philosophy. This would imply a
new generation of learning oriented leaders inspired by new values and
who would be capable of implementing other daily leadership practices
which would really reflect a new learning oriented leadership culture
instead of the traditional hierarchical leadership culture.
What could be first viewed as an idealistic change for the future of
organizations will soon likely become a requirement for the mainstream
leadership led organizations if they want to survive and to enjoy a
sustainable development in the fast changing economic and social
business world. Because as de Geus said very smartly : the only
competitive advantage for a company in the future will be its speed of

3.2 The leadership challenge of the second generation L.O.

To become a second generation L.O. means a dramatic change in the
leadership paradigm but also in the day to day leadership practices for all
the managers / leaders from the whole hierarchy. Very few organizations

can really be called today true L.O. , even if they claim to be inspired
by this innovative management concept. Why ?
Because it implies a deep change in the leadership philosophy and
values as well as very different managerial practices for which most
managers from the top to lower levels usually are not at all prepared
and often not aware of.
Such other kind of leadership and managerial practices are not taught in
the mainstream business schools and universities.
For example, it means moving away from the still very widespread
command and control style of management or from the centralized and
hierarchical decision processes that can still be found in most
organizationsand are still taught in most mainstream business
education programs.
As Senge mentioned very rightly, becoming a L.O. requires a deep
change in the management and leadership mental models. It actually
requires a true mental revolution which has not been enough
understood nor emphasized in most of the L.O. management litterature
which has flourished since the early 90s.
By many aspects one can say that the L.O. paradigm and its learning
oriented leadership philosophy are requiring many opposite management
and leadership principles and behaviours to those exhibited by the
mainstream and most widespread neo-tayloristic leadership

For example the distribution of the decision making power within a L.O. is
supposed to be very different from the mainstream organization : instead
of a centralization of the decision making process at the top of the
hierarchy, the L.O. leadership philosophy will emphasize the maximum
decentralization and the empowerment of people (according to the
subsidiarity principle) in order to stimulate their responsibilities, their
learning processes, their motivation and their creativity Today this way
of leading appears as a very good mean to mobilize the individual and
team talents, to increase their energies, to improve their professional
development and therefore to leveradge the individual and collective
performances of most employees.
One can take for example the so much looked after innovation processes
within business companies. It needs to proceed from a specific
management context (featuring trust, liberty, team spirit, possibility of trial
and errors, adequate resources, etc.) to unleash the creativity of people.
It is also closely linked to individual and collective learning processes.
This is why the learning based leadership revolution that we advocate for
the second generation L.O. is not just a fancy management fad
among many others short life management models but a true new
leadership paradigm shift.
It does mean a smart, future oriented and innovative leadership thought
and practices. It permits to better answer most of the present people
management challenges as well as economic challenges of today
business in a fast changing world. It will impinge on the organizational

performances and the corporate competitiveness through a far better

use and valorization of its peoples talents, energies, and creativity.
The quality and the characteristics of the leadership practices will very
likely be more and more in the future the key factors to sustainable higher
performances for a business company as well as for any kind of
For example such better quality leadership will include the adequate
management of peoples emotions which can much hampered or
leveradge employees energies, talents and performances as Goleman
shown it with his concept of emotional intelligence .
The new learning oriented leadership of the second generation L.O. will
greatly foster individual and collective learnings, team spirit which will
lead to the improvement of most employees well being at work. It is
surprising to notice that very few links were made until very recently in
the mainstream management litterature between management styles,
sustainable organizational performances and people well being. This
new awareness should play in favour of new leadership approaches such
as the learning oriented leadership that we advocate for the second
generation of L.O.
This new kind of learning oriented leadership will be far more inspirational
and spirit oriented, and will much more lean on the individuals and
teams responsibilities, talents and collective intelligence development


than the still dominant and widespread neo-tayloristic hierarchical

type of leadership
But such a second generation L.O. leadership means a new vision of
people and work, requires new values, new knowledges and demand
new learning processes. This explains why it has still to overcome a lot of
cultural obstacles such as the mainstream management and leadership
mental schemes, the often obsolete and inadequate management
education, the present power positions of many decision makers and the
mental rigidity of many top managers and board members with a
traditional business education, such as the mainstream MBA, whose only
real goal is to maximize the short term financial performances of their
company with all the negative consequences that can be noticed today,
especially on people management and leadership practicesas shown
by Mintzberg.
The main purpose of the second generation L.O. leadership is to derived
as much intelligence, creativity, talents, energies of people in order to
better achieve the general business strategy of the company as well as to
create a work environment where people feel quite well (both as
individual and member of teams). This is an elementary condition to allow
them to give their bestand to develop their potentials and their talents.
It is quite consistent with a sustainable development policy that our
developed western societies will have to embrace sooner or later.


3.3 Overcoming the difficulties to build the second

generation L.O.
The main issues to be tackle and the obstacles to be overcome in order
to become a true L.O. are linked to the mental model associated with
the mainstream management and leadership paradigm. This mental
model is still much influenced by a neo-tayloristic hierarchical,
functional and centralized management model which is underlying the
traditional leadership philosophy and that has not much change over a
century. The analysis of the present management litterature only shows
limited or cosmetic changes, especially at the vocabulary level - due
to the various and fashionable management fads. In fact, from a systemic
viewpoint we can only see first order change(changes within the present
system) and not at all second order changes (change of the rules of the
system). Only the last one can produce the shift of paradigm or of mental
model that implies the managerial transformation required by a true L.O.
We can give here the example of the internal budgetary process in most
companies which clearly reflects the underlying neo tayloristic
hierarchical leadership philosophy.
So a profound change of the dominant mainstream leadership mental
model which characterize most organizations and companies appears as
the main difficulty but at the same time the cornerstone and the key to
build a true second generation L.O. .
This phenomenon explains why the first generation L.O. came across a
lot of limitations and very rarely succeeded in achieving the real and

comprehensive leadership changes that really feature a true learning

oriented organization in its daily operations at all the hierarchical levels.
As an illustration one can quote the real story of a large international
pharmaceutical company where we conducted a consulting mission
about progressing towards a more learning oriented company as wished
by its top management. Despite its claim to become a learning company
and many efforts in the people management and development areas, it
largely failed to transform itself into a real L.O. Because the top
management of the concerned units where the consulting mission took
place did stay with their mainstream leadership and a very centralized
decision-making process and with a strong hierarchical type of
leadership. The main reason or excuse was that the top manager of this
unit considered that his authoritarian style of leadership was the best way
to achieve the required short term priority of high financial performances
of their business group, even if the objective of transforming the company
into a L.O. was explicitly a medium to long term objective. We could see
in this example the common contradiction between these two
management philosophies and practices!
There is a fundamental opposition between the mainstream hierarchical,
centralized and neo-tayloristic managerial practices and the
development of a real learning oriented leadership culture that can only
allow to progressively develop a true second generation L.O .


Most first generation L.O. are only exhibiting a limited number of

managerial and organisational changes (higher expenses on people
training, setting up a knowledge management system, closer follow -up of
individual development and careers, fostering team work and coaching,
individual competencies management, etc.) which are often inconsistent.
But there is no real in depth changes in their general management and
leadership model and deeds that imply a second generation L.O.
A major reason of these mental model change resistances, seems to
be linked to the vision of people and work by most top management. In
the mainstream management and leadership view, employees are
considered as plain resources (the human resources concept reflects
this leadership philosophy as well as the classical economic theory !) and
as a variable that has to be adjusted to the short term business needs ,
nstead of being viewed as the true wealth and as the core assets of the
company as it should be in a genuine knowledge based economy and
in a real learning oriented company.
In the second generation L.O. people should really be considered as
the key strategic factor of success - and not only as a plain resource as
well as the only source of added value through their talents, their
creativity, their energies and their learning capacities. So, according to
this new learning leadership philosophy, people development, both at the
individual and at the collective level, should appear not only as a priority,
but as the most profitable field of investment.


So, it can be advocated that a major feature of a second generation

L.O. is an organisation or a company with a new leadership culture at
all hierarchical levels and first, of course, at its top management. It would
exhibit learning oriented leadership practices which are really compliant
and consistent with the very learning organisation philosophy. Not only
the relations of the managers / leaders with their subordinates, but also
with their peers and their supervisors should be inspired by such
principles. Top executives would also have to give the example through
their own behaviours as true and permanent learners.
So, it clearly appears impossible to set up second generation L.O.
while keeping the old mainstream neo-tayloristic centralized and
hierarchical people management and leadership practices in the day to
day work that are unfortunately still dominant today in most business
companies organizations.

3.4 Adopting a new learning oriented leadership paradigm

The building of a second generation L.O requires the creation of an
adequate and continuous learning work environment with specific rules
and conditions which are consistent with the L.O. paradigm and
In this perspective, the company or the organization is considered as a
learning community. So, it is very important that all the employees feel a
favourable organisational context that offers permanent learning
opportunities, especially in the day to day tasks (and not only during short

term training period outside work). The managers behaviours - at all

hierarchical level - should reflect such a learning based culture of the
The main features of such a new learning oriented leadership model for
the second generation L.O. would be :

A leadership philosophy based on fostering individual, team /

collective and organisational learning processes through adequate
behaviours of the managers/leaders (hierarchy) as well as the
creation of a favourable learning oriented work environment for
everybody within the organization.

This could be for instance translated into continuous professional

development of the staff with the implementation of a real long life
learning approach (which would be considered as a profitable
investment for the organization) or /and into a well developed and
efficient HR function which could have a direct role in monitoring
and improving the quality of the leadership practices within the
whole organization (contrary to most organizations where the HR
function has very little influence on the leadership practices which
are considered as the reserved area of the operational
executives and / or top management).

Leadership practices abiding with a set of consistent humanistic

and developmental values such as : respect, confidence,
individuality, emotional intelligence, empowerment,
acknowledgment of peoples efforts, honesty, guidance/advice,

knowledge and experience sharing, coaching and mentoring, team

spirit, loyalty, supervisors support and service to their
subordinates, etc.
In a true learning oriented company such values cannot be only
stated in the company charter - as often - without any impact on
the actual people management practices. On the contrary they
should be the basic criteria to evaluate the leadership practices at
every hierarchical level and therefore become the main criteria
used to compensate and to promote all the managers /
leaders . Up to now, very few companies - even those claiming to
adopt a L.O. model - can boast to comply with such evaluation
grids for all their managers.

New priority roles and professional competences for the learning

oriented managers / leaders will be based on coaching,
mentoring and supporting their subordinates both at the individual
and at the team levels. According to this new paradigm of
leadership, the work performances of people is tightly linked to
their learning and to their professional development.
The manager / leader has the responsibility to succeed in
mobilizing individual and collective talents and energies in order to
develop all the possible synergies that will efficiently contribute to
reach the business strategy goals.

The specific logic of the learning oriented leadership paradigm

relies on tapping peoples wealth, talents imagination and energies
by focusing on establishing peoples adequate work environment
and well being, individual care, personal relationship, team spirit

and team learning, empowerment, trust, acknowledgment of

individual and collective achievements, permanent opportunities of
professional learning as well as giving sense for the daily tasks of
A learning oriented leadership practice will turn an organization or
a company into a learning community which will automatically
develop a real competitive advantage through people as well as
sustainable global corporate performances.
This means for example that the managers-leaders would
have to be first at the service of their subordinates, peers,
etcinstead of staying with the old command and control
leadership model still much in use in most companies and various
types of organizations
One can notice that this is the basic philosophy of the servant
leadership model initiated by Greenleaf. Senges approaches of
leadership, especially in his early 90s books, did not insist much
on this service philosophy in his L.O. model, although it appears
as a very interesting and revolutionary leadership paradigm.

Such a profound leadership behaviour changes will not only

require the knowledge and the compliance with another people
management paradigm but also the development and the actual
implementation of a new learning based leadership culture . It
will represent a major change challenge for most mainstream
organizations. But the economic stake looks so important that this
could hopefully foster at least the most smart and far-sighted top

management to embrace this new learning based leadership


3.5 Implementing a new learning based leadership culture : a

core responsibility of the top management
The choice of a new learning based leadership culture for the
organization is a real strategic choice. Its purpose is not only grounded
on an economic strategy to improve the competitiveness and the
business performances of the company or the efficiency of an
organization. It is also a people management and leadership strategy
which greatly enhances individual and collective motivations as well as
the quality of the work climate and the workerss well being.
It would also aim at better serving and balancing the interests of the main
internal and external stakeholders as a new modern approach of
corporate governance. It would also provide a far better answer to the
new sustainable economic and social development that more and more
demanded by our western societies in front of the growing threats of the
exclusively financial and short term focused management of many
multinational companies, for example....
Implementing a new learning based leadership culture means for most
organizations quite a drastic change with a deep mental model shift. It
would first imply another vision of the place of people working within the
organization that would be no longer considered as a plain resource but a
strategic asset which could de grown through adequate leadership and
learning practices.

It would also require the real practice of a new learning leadership culture
focused on developing learning processes both at all hierarchical levels
and for everybody.
The difficulties of operating such a new mental model change must not
be underestimated for several reason and especially for internal politics,
power sharing and short term interest of the hierarchy. This is why a
strong impetus from the top management is needed to get started as well
as an adequate preparation and training of all, especially of all the
The implementation of such a learning based leadership culture shift will
require in depth changes in leadership practices but also in the
organization schemes, in the ways of operating the day to day tasks, in
the people management and development policies as well as in the
knowledge management processes.
To be successful, such drastic management and leadership changes
must not only be strongly promoted and encouraged by the top
management with exemplary behaviours. It should be understood and
appropriated by the whole hierarchy and all the personnel within the
Because the very nature of the learning processes it does require the
active commitment and the explicit will of the learner. It is clear that the
hierarchy has to be the main actor of such a leadership paradigm change
to succeed in implementing it. The change process is itself a learning

process - especially a collective learning process - which facilitates the

development of the learning oriented leadership culture.
So, the responsibility of the top management and its consistent
leadership behaviours appear as a core requirement to give the adequate
legitimacy to be able to achieve such a strategic leadership paradigm
But will the present generation of corporate top leaders really have the
capacity to make such a dramatic leadership culture change ?
Will the next top managers generation be adequately trained with the
relevant mental model to implement successfully such a leadership
culture ?
Is the present management education system well preparing and training
the students for this leadership cultural changes ?
Unfortunately one still can much doubt to get positive answers to these
key questionsFor example it seems that the dominant management
education system exemplified by most of the leading business schools is
still teaching the old and obsolete neo tayloristic leadership models
as very well explained by Mintzberg in his book about MBAs. But this
is another story we cannot deal with in this chapter.
Traditional business education has undebatably a very large
responsibility in the poor leadership practices that we can still observe in
most large organizations of a country like France. The paradox is that

most of their top managements are not aware of the very hampering
effects of these practices on their corporate global and sustainable

3.6 Conclusion
This new learning oriented leadership paradigm would surely lead not
only to a much more humanistic way of managing and developing people
but would surely contribute to the creation of new and powerful
competitive advantages through and by people. Such issues are likely to
become one of the most looked after in the future knowledge and talent
based economy in which we are entering.
This mental leadership model shift is badly needed in order to set up the
future second generation learning organisation that our society
needs, especially in the old Europe , to improve its competitiveness in
the face of new very dynamic emerging countries.
It is based on a new vision of people based on new smart ways of
capturing their intelligence, their confidence, their energies and their
loyalty. Along this paradigm organizations are considered first as human
communities that could produce enhanced collective intelligence and
performances if they are smartly managed and led.
It can easily be assumed that this new learning oriented leadership
paradigm would give a lot of advantages to the competitiveness of the
company. For instance it would bolster the corporate image and therefore


would make it more attractive to the best talented individuals in the

forecasted talents war between the companies.
In addition to a major improvement of the present poor quality of the
leadership in most companies and organizations, this second
generation learning organization would also permit to much better meet
the growing expectations of our western societies in terms of setting up
more sustainable, responsible, ethical and society friendly business
organizations while maintaining the dynamism, the creativity and the
wealth creation process of the free market economic system.

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Garratt, B (1990) Learning to lead. London: Harper Collins Publishers.
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Goleman, D. (1995) Emotional intelligence. New York: Bantam Book.

Goleman, D., R .Boyatzis & A.McKee (2003) The new leaders. London:
Time Warner Paperbacks.
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Berrett Koehler San Francisco.
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future. San Fransisco: Jossey-Bass
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human purpose and the field of the future. Cambridge : SOL.


Chapter 4
The Corporate Universitys Role in Managing an Epoch in
Learning Organisation Innovation1

Prof. Richard Dealtry

4.1 Managers and their Working Context
At a recent meeting of senior managers one manager said, It seems to
me that the value of practically everything I have experienced over the
past 20 years is now out-of-date or redundant. The response from one of
his colleagues who agreed with him was very succinct, Join the club!.
These comments represent the frustrations that are abroad in many
organisations. No one has told these managers that the whole context for
valuing their experience has and is changing very rapidly. There is an
epochal event taking place in organisational and business management
that is demanding new management styles, leadership and thinking.
Without that understanding, which brings with it many misunderstandings
about the value of acquired experience, competencies and skill-sets,

Adaptation of an article published in the Journal of Workplace Learning. Dealtry, R.

(2006) The corporate university's role in managing an epoch in learning organisation

innovation. Journal of Workplace Learning, Vol. 18, Issue 5, pp. 313 320


managers cannot formulate or attempt their own related career epochmaking events.
If managers do not have the necessary understanding to change
themselves it is very unlikely that they will be able to contribute effectively
to the development of organisational effectiveness through more well
directed and purposeful job performance.
The context for this epochal event in learning management evolution is
not understood simply by learning about and applying explicit business
and process improvement methodologies but reaches out far deeper into
new visions of self and the wider context for managerial work in the
This article explores some ideas about how this broader context can be
initiated and managed.

4.2 Defining an Epochal Context

One of the most rewarding experiences we have is a product of working
with companies to develop their much needed and unique corporate
university entity. Each one has its own signature for success and
working through that co-creative process is a tough but stimulating
experience. The findings quite often surprise but the starting point for that
journey has to be to look critically at the key relationships at the centre of
their business model.


Bringing about a meaningful insight into that dynamic context for, and for
the future of, management learning and action is the bench-mark starting
point. The context perspective that we develop is the state of the
relationship that exists between an organisation and the realities of its
business environment. Figure 1, Strategic Learning Fit, illustrates the
strategic role of the corporate university in the effective melding of these
two dynamic spheres. The business objective being to achieve a state of
flow between the two spheres with the organisation being shaped
constantly by its journey in time, location and its understanding of the
pace of change and dynamics of its business environment.
Figure 1 Strategic Learning Fit. Learning L => C Change

CU Policy &

Change in

L < > C




The challenge for many managers in creating their own career epoch is
that this dynamic context has changed dramatically in recent years and
will continue to evolve due to scientific and technological developments,
globalisation and innovations in products, services and business systems
and lets not forget, the demands of the present era in the field of
knowledge innovation.
We have tried to characterise and give expression to the managerial
dynamics that are inherent in this relationship and have found that from a
managerial viewpoint that the term kinetic management has the capacity
to capture and empathise with these dynamic states. We understand by
this title that managers are faced with the opportunities and problems
resulting from two interlocking sets of dynamics, each one possessing
energy and motion. This is a state of kinesis movement and motion
that is in the well-managed organisation, a continuous state of organic
development to achieve what we have called a relationship of harmonic
Perfect fit between the two spheres is unlikely and in the general kinetic
state of organisations they tend to lag behind the kinetics of the external
environment. There are many reasons for this. Sometimes it is arrogance
and hubris on the part of management, often lack of foresight and
slowness in adapting the resources of organisation to change. On the
other hand there are also tectonic scale shifts that result in organisational
impacts which cannot be anticipated.


4.3 Consequences for management

The epochal managerial challenge is how to manage this interface in a
continuous sustainable mode so that an organisation does not become
significantly dislocated or disconnected from its business environment. It
is clear that to meet this challenge effectively the response has to be
significantly different from traditional and classic paradigms of
management. In our search for guidelines into making this epoch a
valuable learning experience, it has been useful to observe how other
people perceive some key aspects of change that will influence the future
of organisational development.
In Figure 2, Structures and Change, we are shown a step change
transition in management and organisational emphasis through three
stages in conceptual thinking. This evolution illustrates that here is a
need for the management response mechanism to change dynamically in
response to persistent environmental change if it is to be synchronously
engaged with its business environment. The three stages of evolution
progress thro to the organisation having the characteristics of a brain.
This is a very interesting perspective on the evolution of managerial
emphasis, however, there are many different views about how an
organisation takes on the attributes of a human brain and builds its
intellectual capital.


Figure 2 Structures and Change

Fit with organisations







as a brain

Rate of



of Structural




as a machine

Degree of Behavioral


Change Required

Zohar & Marshall define a different approach to identifying what style of

management we are moving towards and interprets the escalation of
evolutionary stages in a different way that incorporates the idea of
spiritual intelligence. With a more intellectual and personal values-based
focus they show a hierarchy, from material capital focus to that of social
capital to that of an era that embraces spiritual capital.
None of these individual forms of management are put forward as being
mutually exclusive but collectively they indicate that there is now in-train
a logical precipitation of concepts that brings forth higher level ideas upon
which complex adaptive systems of organisational management can be
founded. These are good indicators for defining the emergent context for

shaping our concept of kinetic management at the organisation to

business environment interface.

4.4 Connections or chaos

Searching for a relational managerial concept that can be made relevant
in a given organisational situation, that becomes the enabling mechanism
to achieve kinetic balance in motion and movement between an
organisation and its business environment, provides both a forum and the
stimulus for the new thinking that top management needs to engender
and articulate.
When this transition in conceptual development does not take place,
instead of kinetic resonance we see and experience conflicting energy
states that produce a whole raft of disillusionments at the personal level.
These emotional states range from people becoming more self centred
and self preserving, to anger, a desire to be somewhere else, fear,
anguish, apathy and even intense guilt about the failings of their
organisation situation; all the emotional states that are in conflict with an
individuals needs to feel that they belong, have a degree of security and
a possibility of survival.
Our constant endeavour with company managements is to break into this
negative motivational cycle and create the strategic framework and
process for a positive motivational environment.


Unfortunately the interventions frequently preferred as solutions for

correcting these schismatic and pathological inducing states of
organisation are all too frequently aimed at resolving the outcomes or
consequences of organisational and business environment misalignment
rather than producing a spontaneous, vibrant and well connected culture
and managerial style. There are many quick fix activities that can be
introduced to make people in the organisation feel better. For example
increasing the intensity of dialogue through multi-disciplinary discussion
groups is quite successful in the short term but without a fundamental
shift to new ways of managing and organising managerial work that links
capability with need, the patient company will quickly lapse and return to
a regressive state.

4.5 Learning about achieving kinetic resonance

A lack of symmetry and positive resonance in an organisations
relationship with the business environment shows that a finely tuned
relevant business model has not been sustained. As a consequence the
organisation is in a state of some chaos and does not appear to have the
leadership capability for translating and directing kinetic movements and
motion to connect with the right executive response capabilities which will
enable the merging of appropriate resources; it has tended to drift and
lose that essential synchronicity and in a rapidly changing environment
gets caught-up in a downward spiral on its way to becoming obsolete.
Learning about and developing capability to manage well connected
business-led interface new learning is central to the recovery of these

chaotic states of organisational being and the key to the updating or

reconfiguring of a viable business model; this is if time permits and that
resources are available to make that possible. However, the learning
environment from which that recovery can be formulated and prioritised
has to start with a) an appreciation and clear understanding of the nature
of new learning demands in the kinetic management environment and b)
the re-positioning of capabilities of managers best able to deal with
particular sets of relational issue dynamics.
Taking an econometric model view around the organisation-toenvironment interface, this perspective can help to unravel the
complexities for effective executive management of these dynamics. The
principal aim is to raise the level of consciousness for what can be done
and achieve kinetic coherence through the medium of a strategic learning
paradigm that will underpin and sustain resonance. This type of model
focuses attention on the number, scale and nature of all the main
interactive variables and their related issues that have to be managed to
produce a degree of order in situations that are in or have the potential
for chaos.
In this way we have a contextual simulation that defines this dynamic
state and we can use this configuration of variables to develop a related
executive managerial competency model. This construct has a dual role.
It must be sufficiently flexible to have a good chance of being successful
in managing both schismatic state recovery and also in establishing an
ongoing regime of organic learning capability that is commensurate with
future learning needs at all levels in the organisation. Figure 3 is the

starting point for achieving this resonant dynamic state illustrating a trawl
of the diverse issues that matter; a profile that can be generated by a
number of business analysis models.
Figure 3 Profile of relational issues

Interface Variables

There are many and diverse variable issues caught-up in this trawl, some
small, some immensely important, but all have meaning and relevance
and as we can never do everything at once they all have to be prioritised
and positioned into different timescales. If we apply shocks to some of
these variables we know that the side effects on other variables will not
be entirely predictable. The model is stochastic in nature and this takes
our strategic learning about kinetic management learning onwards and
upwards into a much more brain led and spiritual capital epochal event
and away from the single strand cause and effect learning paradigm that
emphasises predefined self contained processes.
The question remains, however, who and how should the new learning
implicit in the resolution of the issues be managed for a successful
outcome, i.e. to break-out of the downward spiral of chaos with all its
debilitating effects on motivational thinking and behaviours. One very

interesting approach is to develop a hierarchy of managerial challenges

and executive difficulty around these variables that will assist in defining
specific areas of learning needs. To achieve that segmentation of these
variables and to define the related management competency
differentiation at different levels in the model, we have related them to the
hierarchy of challenges structure as defined and related to managerial
This construct eventually leads to the development a cone model shown in
Figure 4. The cones isometric rings denoting the managerial capability/
potential levels that match with the kinetic interface issues now arranged in
a matching intellectual hierarchy that have been categorised. In this way
we can combine the capabilities and potential of individuals with real time
relational development action thereby starting the process of producing
some degree of order out of chaos, i.e. a condition where no-one seems to
know very much about what they should be doing and when.
Figure 4 Positioning issues in relation to managerial capabilities
Unfamiliar tasks in unfamiliar
Chief Executive and Director level concerned


with policy
Unfamiliar tasks in familiar

Senior Management team members who

are head of functions

Familiar tasks in unfamiliar


Functional Specialists who manage

particular areas
Familiar tasks in familiar
Operational Line Managers at
supervisor and foreman level


The impact of this cone model featuring business environment variables

and management competency alignment has a massive positive
motivational effect that shifts an organisation from the state of chaos and
negative thinking and motivations described above, into a much more
purposeful self actualising and self organising system of learning and
working. Self actuated exploration of new ideas, keenness for
networking, providing room to experiment, ambition to achieve mastery
over situations and generate new solutions, dignity of position and space
for the emergence of spiritual capital, are all in evidence to positively
change the motivational environment.

4.6 The Kinetic Organisation

The consequences for organisational structure, style, resourcing and
culture in introducing these working relationships are immense. It would
be convenient to think of it as a matrix style organisation linking projects
with people and resources but those systems of working lack the
flexibility and self organising capabilities that are essential in a
stochastically charged management environment.
In micro economic simulation terms the issues that make up this highly
interactive kinetic environment have complex effects and life cycles and it
is necessary to stretch and innovate new concepts and practices of
organisation capability management.
The achievement of that way of working in motivational terms means that
managers have the opportunity to have greater freedom of expression for

their abilities and release their potential. It does imply, however, that CPA
style assessments are thorough and interpreted in the form of personal
potential for dealing with strategic and tactical issues at an appropriate
What type of organisation or business community does this epochal
transition imply is an exciting area of research and development in itself.
Interim findings are that the people working in multi disciplinary multi
purpose issue inspired cells need to understand the simulation process
that delivers work to them and be a part of that decision process.
However, achieving a balance between highly motivated issue driven cell
groups and the multi cellular organism which makes up the whole is a
vital part of our ongoing interest.
In practice it works. In terms of theoretical interpretation there is still
much thinking and conceptual analysis to be accomplished as the
solution draws upon and crosses over many intellectual boundaries.
There are very powerful models that are being considered and one
particular area of special interest is how the individual cells signal what
they are doing to the other issue driven management cells and what
influence this has on regulating the development of all the other variables
in a multi cellular cluster.

4.7 Summary
One advantage in the usage of the kinetic energy concept in the context
of organisational dynamics and renewal is that it highlights the idea that

organisations are all about being in constant motion and depend upon
continuous pro-active movement to have an effect. How that energy
source is maintained and directed to create movement is all important.
We know that if that energy source created by the momentum of its
employees at all levels, is allowed to atrophy and approaches a state of
standstill the organisation impact becomes inert and it will experience a
reversal of energy in its dynamic state with the resulting chaos.
Organisations are continuously on the edge of chaos and it is a feature of
this epoch in learning management whether that instability is managed
effectively to become a force for good.
To form a management culture and practice that emanates from the
concept of kinetic management requires bold initiatives by top
management around the area of managing self organising cell work that
is driven and re-shaped day-to-day. It implies a revolution in top
management style and capability i.e. a new brand of top management
leadership, servant leaders who hold high values and practice the art of
managing by evolving spiritual capital. It also involves having spiritual
intelligence; a level beyond emotional intelligence.
Putting learning as a major multi part variable into an econometric styled
model is from our experience in organisational regeneration a blessing of
mixed fortunes but generally speaking it gives management an effective
decision support framework for integrated strategic learning
management. The kinetic management model is an extension of the
highly successful corporate university Blueprint Profiler Model and it
works in engendering the bespoke solutions that are essential if

organisations are to manage complexity and become a self organising

adaptive entity.
Practically all organisations work at the brink of chaos and such instability
can be the inspiration for understanding, new thinking and pro-active
behaviours if the climate of culture is right. For those organisations in
chaotic states producing some degree of kinetic coherence is always
possible, but playing catch-up in an increasingly globally competitive
environment is proving to be a tenuous and extremely expensive process
and getting it right all the time is more-so the survival instinct that

Bibliography: References and further reading

Zohar, D. & I. Marshall (2004) Spiritual Capital, Wealth We Can Live By,
Bloomsbury, London
Stamp, G. & C. Stamp (1993) Wellbeing at Work: Aligning Purposes,
People, Strategies And Structures, International Journal of Career
Management, Vol 5, Issue 3, MCB University Press, Bradford, UK
Corporate University Blueprint Profiler,
Smith, Q. & L.N. Oaklander (1995) Time Change and Freedom,
Routledge, New York
Gardner, H. (1999) Intelligence Reframed, Basic Books, New York
Edvinsson, L. & M.S. Malone (1997) Intellectual Capital, Piatkus, London

Hock, D. (1999) Birth of the Chaordic Age, Berret-Koehler, San

Francisco, USA
Taylor, D (2003) The Naked Leader, Bantam Books, London


Chapter 5
On Becoming An Organizational Learning Expert

Dr. Ulrich Schweiker

5.1 Introduction
It is quite obvious that in a relatively young discipline the ways how the
pioneers have come to their roles in the field are different. Since there
aren't any uniform education paths, the descriptions of milestones and
landscapes outlined here in an autobiographical sketch shall serve as
suggestions, examples, and models, triggering self-reflection, and maybe
initiating a search and strive, longing and desire for comparable
experiences. I do not claim completeness nor absence of contradiction
here. The events mentioned have not necessarily influenced me directly,
but my perception and interpretation, also my later re-construction of
them, based on my changing frame of reference over time due to new
experiences, hopefully growing perspective and wisdom. Others who
have been accompanying me during certain phases of my life's journey
so far may have a divergent perception and interpretation, and by the
dialogue about different angles of perception my own cognition is
progressing. Accordingly, the order and exhaustiveness of the details
does not constitute a weighting and evaluation of the meaning. I
deliberately don't have accentuated the variety of influencing factors on

my journey's route - and detours - even though by not doing so the report
seems fragmentary and arbitrary.

5.2 My Family of Origin

I spent my childhood and youth together with my siblings and parents of
my mother in a detached house at the outskirts of a city.
So the first four adults whose world views have influenced me were my
parents and grandparents. They represent four distinct approaches to life
and personality types so that I could learn sensitivity to different persons
very early.
My father was a person stamped by a natural science perspective,
working as a clinical pharmacist: he was very quiet, analytical, careful in
interpreting and argumentation, he had a comprehensive general
education and in his many books and dictionaries I could find everything I
wanted (needed) to know; together, we often watched TV programs
together on exotic peoples and cultures and about natural scientific
research results, but we also enjoyed just to laugh about Laurel and
Hardy mishaps. - My mother is the extrovert counterpart -- many contacts
in the church and city community and visiting local events are
characteristic of her; in the talks with neighbours and visitors she is
blossoming out, even now at age 80+. - My grandfather was an artist,
painter, and retired handicraft teacher and holistic elementary school
teacher; as a child, I have roved with him through the nearby woods in
search of branches and stones and motives for painting. His way to

experience the world was looking for the aesthetics, to wonder rather
than analyze and interpret. - My grandmother was focussed on our little
family: Our welfare was the most important for her, her world consisted of
our family and the neighbours and ended at the small convenience store
at the corner of our street and the farms close to us to buy fresh eggs;
highlights were rare visits in the region - to farms with old acquaintances
from former times. - I therefore had a rich choice of different views and
The constellation in the origin family has an essential influence which
preferences and social competences we develop ourselves. In addition,
there is an effect on our motivation and ultimate goals in life. I was born
three years after my older brother. He reacted to the new family situation
with much jealousy and defiance attacks (exactly how our boy
responded to the arrival of his sister). Later, he always was in the centre
of his circle of friends and organized numerous events in school, then in
his student hostel, during his trainee phase, and finally as a teacher at a
private high-school. The social dimension has always been very
important to him; I was always involved and tolerated as his younger
brother and have assisted him, thus having access to older guys and
their activities. Being with them, but not being considered as a peer by
them, developed and trained my active observation skills and restraint,
attitudes and behavioural patterns needed to become an action research
practitioner later. I surely have learned much from him with regard to
leadership and organization; however, the three years distance were

probably the optimum not to imitate and adopt too much and develop an
independent personality. According to the original wishes of my parents I
should have been a daughter; part of my education was probably aiming
at the promotion of my female aspects. - My younger brother was born -eight years after me. I then have experienced his childhood consciously
as his older brother; to take on education, responsibility, pay attention,
give line, orientation, act as example and model; many of my leadership
skills have been developed from this perspective. I continued to be a
guide and an orientation to him, which he denied, of course. Even today,
advice and suggestions are heard from me with acceptance, but never
any instructions. He became very engaged in and dedicated to various
environmental protection programs and peace initiatives. He studied
physics, with his main emphasis becoming programming and the
implementation and usage of information technology. And finally he
turned to become a software implementation consultant, with his career
as a business unit head of a consulting team he has arrived virtually at
stepping into my footprints.
Middle brothers and sisters stand out due to their diplomatic abilities,
their social and emotional competence in general. Corresponding we find
them frequently in educational and social professions as well as in
mediator functions. When we have asked about 450 (systemic) family
therapists from all over the world about their family constellation (at an
international convention opening session), we were surprised by about
96% middle position brothers and sisters.


5.3 School and Teachers

The fact that I haven't gone to any nursery school surely had
consequences. Thus I was looking forward to my enrolment in
elementary school with enthusiasm. My teachers in the first school years
have characterized my attitude towards class-mates and towards
studying lastingly. As the most lasting influencing teacher I see - from
today's view - our German language teacher from classes seven to nine.
He was the first teacher at our high school who dared to appear in shorts
in an extremely hot summer and to endanger his (and others') teacher
authority through this. He was primarily interested in strengthening our
class community and developing our social consciousness. He convinced
us as a class to take on a god parenthood of a boy in Cameroon; the
letters we conceived in the German class were then translated in the
English class; and in the biology and geography classes fauna, flora,
politics, history, and climate were dealt with reference to Cameroon.
Class journeys and weekends together brought about my first "official"
meetings with group dynamics. Unfortunately, he left the school -- from
our point of view then out of frustration about the fact that his ideas of
education weren't taken up by the peer teachers adequately. He changed
to university and dealt with school curriculum development; following this
he initiated the first further education program on management topics
which he conducted for many years and which sufficiently gave him the
opportunity to carry his ideas into the world. In various ways I have
stepped into his footprints unwittingly without ever again having a
relationship to him personally. When we exchanged a letter when I was

entering the field of management education he did remember our class and me as well.
The second essential influencer was our Latin teacher who accompanied
us from class seven until the end of our school career. Since for him (and
me) Latin was a dead language we learned the essential features of
Roman languages, and we learned basic competence in Italian from him
in a crash course before we carried out a class trip to Italy. Moreover, we
learned about the development and changing of languages: when
rehearsing Latin vocabulary we were trained, which words in English,
French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and in German language have
developed from the root and which changes in meaning have taken place
in the course of centuries; our Latin classes were also our access to the
understanding of culture and civilization; I learned the access to
literature, prose and poetry, empire politics, history and philosophy in the
context of our Latin classes. Every student took on the expert role for two
major subjects. My two areas "education -- from the ancient Rome up to
today's Italy" and "the development of an empire - balancing between the
art of warfare and diplomacy" surely have stamped focus topics which
have employed me again and again later, namely management
education and corporate strategy, in fact the two topics that became the
red thread in my professional career. - We later learned an expansion of
this essential background - by our two Greek teachers; philosophy and
philosophies of life were more important than the ancient language. In
common classes with our physics teacher we compared ideas of the preSocratics with the conception of the world of today's nuclear physics. Our

physics teacher who taught us mathematics for a while at the same time,
also had influence on me by the fact that he explained to us the
difference between the two areas mathematics and physics from the
theory of science views of Democritus, Heisenberg, Planck and Einstein:
The divergent approaches - systematization of observations and the
variation of framework conditions by building models of complex
relations. There were my early beginnings of my later work
conceptualizing organisational complexity within a system theory frame of
Another influencing person was our class teacher of the last three years:
Though she was primarily our German teacher, in regard to German
language and literature there was little impact. She was also the acting
principal or the operative leader of the school since the principal himself
was politically active and most of the work was done by the other
leadership team members. Some students were included in school
management tasks by her: we spent days (including the afternoons)
preparing the new schedules at the end and the beginning of each school
year; little cards with symbols for classes and teachers were moved on a
gigantic blackboard until the interplay of school classes, teachers,
timetables and rooms was able to work in harmony. Since I had the same
ability as some of the mathematics teachers I was usually involved to
overlook very complex processes of simultaneous change, I was sitting in
the back row and "supervised" the feasibility of the variants suggested by
the others. - Another activity which was entrusted to us students was
thinning regularly the immense amount of documents the state

department for schools was sending - containing laws, regulations,

ordinances and decrees - and making summaries which then were
communicated to the administrative and teaching staff of the school. We
were included in organizational aspects, the organization of the school
library, the biology collection, etc. My later interest in legal matters and
organizational issues was aroused at that time.
A dedicated teacher of religious education was surely one cause for the
fact that most of his students became military service objectors. With me,
the war experiences of my own father were another reason. He hadn't
been an aggressive person at all, and the political situation prior to the
war was against his own liberal educated attitudes and beliefs;
nevertheless he did decide for an "armed forces career" to prevent
harassments from his widowed mother. Resulting from the nonsense of
war he had experienced, he developed a deep aversion to conflicts and
controversies of any type which has impressed me lastingly.
Our class remained constant with only few students changing from class
seven until graduation was an exception in a certain way. On the one
hand, the early influence of our class teacher had been the reason that
we were a community, despite and with a great variety of little
personalities; on the other hand, the average standard of the class was
unusual, far beyond any previous class. This resulted in the fact that the
most dedicated teachers of the school scrambled to get teaching
assignments with us; in turn this was the reason that we were challenged
and promoted well more than other classes. Most of our teachers were
subject heads at the same time and our class was therefore often

entrusted to educate trainees. Some of us had even the honour in the

last school year of being allowed to role-play final examinations after the
mentors realized that often trainees were more afraid of examinations
than students; my later liking for role playing found food as my interest in
teaching, curriculum development and teacher-training, at higher
education, university didactics, and at the development of Corporate
Universities linking corporate strategy and executive development and
organisational learning.
Quite lot students of our class were also politically active in the last
school years; I myself was engaged particularly in the school context:
temporarily I was class spokesman and a member of the student
leadership team of the school as well as a member of the city's student
counsel. Outside school, I have spent the largest portion of my leisure
time in youth groups in our church parish.
Though our community feeling during the school years was so immense,
it ended suddenly with leaving school. There were no annual reunion
meetings although most continued to live nearby. Only to celebrate the
25-years anniversary there was one meeting. There is a pattern
characteristic to my professional development later on: to develop
narrow, intensive relations fast, and to pursue separate ways later.

5.4 Private Life

I had a steady friend during the last school years whom I had met in the
youth community work. She was two years younger and we spent

stamping years of my (our) puberty with common dreams and life plans.
The relationship lasted more than five years until, directly before my
graduation, the (for me) painful separation happened. While I had taken
our plans serious she had begun to develop alternative ideas which she
did not dare to share with me. When she then joined another partner, she
changed and - from my point of view, she betrayed all common plans
developed with me. She had covered her gradually increasing distance at first cognitively and intellectually, then also actual - to me. For me, this
revelation was shattering when putative dreams and arrangements
turned into "lies" - it has lasted for years before I could develop
confidence in common plans with others again. My following life surely
was influenced by this experience substantially.
From my present view, I have carried out the life plans made at that time
with her most largely anyway, although with some years delay. Many
beliefs about the human nature and its capacity to change were under reconsideration. We both had been anti-smokers, but her new partner was
a smoker and she started smoking. Initially she stated her desire for
alternatives as a reason for the separation but later on she obviously did
not really went on an alternative path away from her family and
background, while I have departed from my roots quite far. A kind of
counter-attitude and defiance was surely part of my response. But I reconceptualized my future path as a (straight) continuation of my previous
development. I surely have developed towards a great extent to personal
independence - after the separation. Independence and distinctive effort
became characteristic to me in many further situations.

5.5 Education
5.5.1 Basic Courses of Study
Since I was interested in many areas and my school leaving certificate
gave me all possibilities I had to focus: too many courses of studies
seemed too narrowly focussed to me. Fortunately, the delayed effects of
the 68s revolts gave me the possibility of starting with interdisciplinary
studies. Most of the former courses had been replaced by alternative,
Marxist Leninist, and society-critical contents, so that the courses
required by the formal regulations were no longer offered. Consequently,
for the examination registration only a certain number of basic courses,
methodology courses, and in-depth studies was needed taken from the
whole range of courses available. - I could study an interdisciplinary
social scientific and economic studies program, sharing statistics with the
mathematicians, interview technique with the publicists and journalists,
national economy and science history, sociology, ethnology and could
combine civilization history with legal studies (with main emphasis on
Criminology), and finally complete the intermediate examination
(intermediate exam in psychology) with law and education. Altruism and
Attraction were my basic research and specialization topics (when who
helps whom and why? - and who seems attractive to whom when through
what)? My interest to understand interrelationships got me to accept a
tutor job in my third semester for history and philosophy of science to
support the introductory studies of freshers. The execution of events and
self-reflection workshops was also part of my tasks (why do we study,


which methods we apply, which professional activities we pursue and into

which -- organizational and cultural -- settings we dive).
Regarding the content I was most deeply impressed by "social
constructivism" at that time: The common creation and shaping, the
"design" of our world and "all of us play our own productions / play"
characterizes my professional development.
5.5.2 Main studies
During the vacation after my intermediate examinations I passed by in
the Institute of Psychology and read an offer for a student tutor job at the
Institute of Personality Research and Social Psychology / Group
Dynamics. I wrote a short application and was selected from about forty
applicants. I knew the professor from several events and from my own
examination in personality research. He voted for me; later, we have
never been able to clarify why actually - "perhaps due to my Greek
language knowledge". - Shortly before the beginning of the semester
sessions he was elected (Administrative) Dean -- and this meant little
time left for research and teaching. We, his tutors, assistants, graduate
students, doctoral candidates had most largely to take over all his
academic tasks. He was available as a sparring partner for preparation
and feedback only. So we took on the operative business while he was
dealing with power politics and administration. (The conservatives at the
Institute of Clinical Psychology and the Marxists at the Institute for
General and Developmental Psychology were in a stalemate situation;
the Left Liberals at the Institute for Personality Research and Applied

Social Psychology formed the balancing power). The Chair of General

Psychology wasn't occupied at our Institute. Since it was the best
equipped chair in all of Europe most prominent representatives of that
field applied for the chair position and gave guest lectures. But no
decision was made - advantageous for us students.
We conceptualized weekend workshops in which methods of role-playing
were trained to make the start of studying easier for the new freshers. In
the following semester we then trained the attendants of the workshops
to become instructors for the next fresher generation. By this program the
quality of the studies was affected lastingly; the once learnt methods
were widely used and it became normal to use role-playing as didactic
instrument (e.g. instead of introducing three theories in a paper read
boringly a lively debate was staged between three theorists). The interest
in role play in the context of behaviour therapies, psychodrama, and
communication therapies, behaviour modification, as well as in many
wider application areas e.g. at testimonies, journalistic interviewing, in
talk shows, during doctor : patient communication and flight attendants :
airline passengers interaction was aroused among several generations of
students. After two years my own master thesis also made use of the
method "role play". Using role-playing to illuminate the different reference
systems of those involved in dialogs and group situations - by role
changeovers, repetitions and variations of play sequences, in hundreds
of educational, clinical, and research settings surely has enlarged my
own social experience. A major research project which was carried out at
our Institute was the education and further education of high school

teachers. We established weekend workshops with junior teachers,

experienced teachers, and whole school staff to get to know each other
intensively and exchange their views on aims and wishes and gain
experience of group dynamics with each other. We made video
recordings of teaching lessons, analyzed them, discussed them with the
teachers and their mentors, agreed on learning goals, exercised new
behaviours (in role plays), once more, then in real classroom settings.
Beside the work with individuals on their optimization ("of the teaching
behaviour") we worked with groups of juniors and instructors and finally
groups of teachers and whole school staff and the supervision of school
districts and the department of education. Thus organization
development also moved gradually - besides group dynamics (team
development) into our focus. School districts became our first "learning
organizations" though we did not yet use the term explicitly.
Another main emphasis of our Institute was higher education ("didactics
and teaching at university / graduate level"). To improve the quality of
teaching at universities, a community had been founded; research
projects were initiated and best practice examples were published. In the
course of the years the active members had essential influence on the
change of practice at our universities, even though we lived through
phases of euphoria, realism, and pessimism. I was active in the area of
research on examinations for a while: which circumstances enable a valid
forecast of results of an examination? If a (male) examiner, in the
morning shortly before the lunch break, has an oral examination with a
(female) candidate the forecast of the censorship is possible with high

probability, independent from the candidate's bad or good performance or

knowledge. My own (successful) examination preparation - with a four
members' team - was also reflected in the context of this research and
published as a best practice model.
The topic "self experience and social competence within a professional
(vocational) context" remained in the centre of my (academic and
practical) interest for some time: On the one hand, the question of
motivation (why, with which goal, somebody chooses his profession and
exerts it in a certain way?), on the other hand the learning and training of
a wide range of (professionally important) behaviours to enable the
selection from a broad repertoire and be able to "design", create and
shape, rather than just respond to situation and context. The recording
and documentation of the behaviours which are normally demanded and
expected by professionals and the situations in which certain
requirements must be fulfilled is included. Besides these studies, I was
trained in several therapy approaches (Gestalt, psychodrama, client
centred, behaviour therapy / modification, rational emotive therapy,
communication and couple therapy, systemic family therapy) and I
focussed on the personality diagnostics and personality development and
analysis of profession specific behaviour of therapists and group
dynamics coaches. Finally, we checked therapy and group dynamics
methods and practices empirically since our team functioned as
publishers of the magazine for group dynamics at that time and we
examined all incoming papers for their theoretical and conception validity


and with regard to their usability for teachers, educators, therapists, and
trainers to improve the professional practice of group dynamics.
We gradually included the organizational context of change. The
arrangement (reengineering) of business processes, the creation of
(appropriate) organizational structures, the wording of guidelines and
agreements, the understanding and the common care of organization
cultures as (informal) basis and prerequisite of common values, attitudes,
behaviour, visions, and goals entered into our field of vision, with an eye
on the diagnosis, recording, documentation, analysis and interpretation
and the creation of a theoretical (orientation) framework and with the
other eye on the influence-ability, changeability, the management of
these areas. For the first time, university seminars were offered for
organization development and change and transformation management.
In this time, there are the roots of my later expertise in "executive
development, executive and (political and business) leadership
development, entrepreneurship" as well as dealing with the economic
and political development of the institutions shaping education, further
education, and societal learning. The first projects to establish those
facilities later called Corporate Universities and the coaching of those
individuals influencing the education policy of countries were initiated.
I chose a general psychological subject area, "Trends and Future
Perspectives of Memory Research", as a field of research of my master
thesis - to enable options of an academic career later. In cooperation with
a co-student I analyzed the influencing factors for memorizing social

situations with emotional impact, with role-playing as an appropriate

method for recall. Furthermore we analyzed the existing theories,
concepts and methods and the data for recollection investigated until
then. Our own empirical research then demonstrated our expected trends
for the future development of the field of research: instead of
remembering senseless syllables we assumed that emotionally important
social situations would be recalled in future research, and framework
conditions during encountering a situation as well as when remembering
it would become important. Twenty-five years later it can be noted that
we have given a rather apt forecast at that time.
I graduated earlier than most of my co-students: a fellow student wanted
to accompany her partner at a foreign assignment to Costa Rica and I
planned a longer North America journey with my (older) brother who just
was ending his junior teacher years. We received a special approval to
finish our examinations early. Since a Colorado stay on the biggest farm
of the region as a seventeen year old boy I had been interested in
spending some time again there. When leaving school it turned out
impossible since the normal regulations for military service (as well as the
denial to join the army) forbade this to me; after my intermediate exam I
preferred the tutorial position in the professor's team and then I had to
work on my master's thesis so that I wanted now the time to fulfil my
community service first. The 10,000 miles tour together with my brother
served to visit about forty universities to plumb possibilities of a postgraduate course two years later.


5.5.3 Community Service, Social Work, Social Education

I had the pleasant situation, that quite a number of civil service offices
were offered to me (it was lucratively, for any social institution to hire a
pacifist civil service duty individual for a monthly pay of about 120 , even
more so if it was a graduated psychologist although still with only little
professional experience). My decision for an office was based on various
criteria: I wanted to be able to work in my profession, have the possibility
to start my Ph.D. thesis, to maintain the contacts to university colleagues
who also started with their theses and furthermore be able to continue my
teaching assignments at the university. Furthermore I was interested in
getting to know different professional practice fields as comprehensively
as possible.
I decided in favor of a regional branch of a charity organisation, located
close to my university. As well as a variety of facilities, which covered
almost the complete spectrum of social work there were quite a number
of social workers (in a special nursery school, working in a workshop for
handicapped persons, in special schools, hospitals, meals-on-wheels
service, handicapped person transportation services, handicapped
person hostels and senior citizen homes, a general social advising
centre, foster children and adoption arrangement office, drug counselling,
mother & child health cures, etc.) and there were more than twenty
civilian offices established. I had three tasks: firstly, as a graduated
psychologist I was supervisor for the social workers, secondly, I was the
personnel officer of the other community service civilians (search, choice,
introduction, transfers, and promotions, support, mediation of conflicts in

the facilities, dismissals, administration, budgeting, training and

development). I received the feedback that never before and never after
me so many community service civilians made careers to the topmost
salary stage and the further education costs were never so high, on the
other hand, however, the heads of operations were never so satisfied
with the dedication, enthusiasm, and service quality provided. My main
task consisted, however, in organizing and carrying out youth group
leader trainings and look after the various vacation programs for children
and teenagers, of the administration, the educational support up to the
insurance and legal responsibility issues and the financial side, invoice,
etc. including the applications and carrying out of the subsidies received
from towns, counties, federal states, and on country level). Since there
was a lot of office work involved but also intensive (overtime) evening
and weekend courses, I had the necessary clearance to follow my
university interests in parallel.
The intensive touch with the various fields of social work surely has
stamped me for disadvantaged population groups with regard to my
attitudes towards minorities of all kinds. The range of experiences
gathered during these years resulted in the reception of an offer to take a
chair at the Professional School for Social Work even prior to the
completion of my own Ph.D. thesis. At that time, I said no to complete my
own thesis first.
Various lectureships and the work on my thesis were continued.


After the end of the community service I had to bridge a half-year before
the start of the academic year in the U.S.; I accepted a 50% position as a
teacher for education and psychology as well as the supervision of the
traineeship places for social education at a professional college. The
educational setting and the environment of social workers and the
teaching activities were familiar to me. The topic of "vocationally
orientated self experience and the development of profession-specific
social emotional competence" remained my red thread.
Development of the organization was a latent topic both for the social
facilities during the community service and at the institutions in which my
trainees were placed; mediation and conflict resolution as well as
clarification with regard to expectations, responsibilities, competences
and goals were on my agenda just as arrangements about desirable
changes of organizational processes.
5.5.4 Visiting Scholarship
I spent an academic year in San Diego, California, at the United States
International University. I had chosen this university because within the
humanistic approach of that private university I was able to study my own
curriculum and teach my own fields of interest. Most other offers gave
just the opportunity to repeat in English what I had already studied in
Germany. At USIU San Diego, personality development and selfactualization were goals and accordingly there was the permanent fight
for the acceptance of degrees. Since I wanted to complete my Ph.D. in
Germany anyway, I didn't have great interest in a formal degree. So I

went through an academic year with the status of a Visiting Scholar,

being a member of the faculty during this time, with an obligation of a
50% teaching load and I could use the remaining time for my own further
education. If I had to summarize my study activities, I fulfilled the
requirements for an Executive MBA with emphasis on Corporate
Strategy. My own teaching had a focus on the further education of
experienced (families-) therapists and group therapists, and group
dynamics coaches. I also worked in the Academic Advising Centre as a
career counsellor and assisted the Dean of the School of Human
Behaviour within the curriculum development on global leadership and
human values.
The university was financed by international students, who lived for a
while in Southern California attending / enjoying entertaining
undergraduate courses, and for these semesters high charges were paid
by their parents (So South Seas princesses, Arab princes, Colombian
sons of successful business men and black African sons-of-chiefs formed
a rather exotic international student life). The money collected this way
was invested to invite the top academicians and practitioners for a few
international topics as guest lecturers. These experts used their time in
San Diego to plan common research or handbook projects or
conferences and to jointly work on the development of their professional
field. During my year then most "names" in the area of systemic family
therapy and international personnel policy were invited to work in San
Diego. There are a good dozen universities in the region and the location
is popular with emeritus professors "with the best climate of the world",

so many famous contemporaries of many disciplines spend their old age

there, most of them still taking actively part in meetings, workshops,
panel discussions and conferences - provided that their health permits it.
I have experienced the year as very enriching in many ways and I surely
profited tremendously from the models, moments, and meetings, and the
intellectual stimulation there for a long time.
5.5.5 My Thesis - On Becoming a Ph.D.
Returning from California I completed my thesis on "openness and liking
in groups". With the construct openness ("Self-disclosure") I had picked
up an area which hadn't been processed any more after the unexpected
accidental death of Sid Jourard (a favourite pupil of Abraham Maslow). A
main part of the work consisted in sighting the existing literature, in
commenting on it and condensing it. A comprehensive quarry of
knowledge later graduate generations could take suggestions from arose.
Years later, when all the copies of my Ph.D. thesis had become
unavailable in libraries, I was addressed whether I wanted to publish a
reprint: With "talking and silence" meanwhile having developed into a
new academic field of research, my old work still served as a standard
reference - those who happened to have a copy kept it like a holy gral. But I was so far away from any empirical (basic) research that I didn't
want to deal with the topic scientifically again.


5.6 Professional life

5.6.1 My First Professional Job
Back then, I was 27 years young, my thesis was locked, first practice
years and foreign stay were behind me, but still I felt too inexperienced to
prepare future generations of students for a professional activity of which
I myself understood too little. (Again my idealism: retrospectively, I could
have taken the academic route; most probably I would have developed
all the insights as well. And many students would have enjoyed working
with me in a co-learning mode rather than in a knowing teacher - learning
student model).
I decided in favour of a practice assignment, without wanting to lose the
university from the eyes. Luck helped me to get a suitable place - with the
team of a university president. Part of the work was to support the top
10 % students to make the best of the possibilities of the higher
education system (are second studies worthwhile? Joint course of study?
Post-graduate courses? Doctorate? Support by foundations? Removing
barriers from hindered cooperation with other education facilities,
university cooperation with industry partners in research and teaching,
traineeship placements, coordination of the various regional advising
centres, career counselling, psychological advice, of students from
aboard, etc.). The other part of the job consisted of co-development of
the university as an institution. Our initiative was also to establish new
interdisciplinary curricula, new subject combinations in exam regulations
and the rededication or creation of new chairs and institutes.


Since I was an academic member of the university, the position made it

easy to take over lectureships and simultaneously participate in the
supervision sessions of the psychological advising centre. My
appreciation of the inter-correlation of individual (career-) aims and
institutional organizational framework conditions grew. Also my means to
analyse with regard to the changeability of organizations. Even though I
have often heard that things are much more complex in industry, I have
never again experienced such a variety of contradictory targets like in the
university setting. The university had to fulfil a public educational goal, to
serve as a regional service provider (by the university hospital, a variety
of counselling and consulting advising centres, as a centre of
competence for many fields of expertise, and as a major employer),
beyond these goals the university had to support the individual needs of
chair patriarchs, and also help teenagers to leave their puberty, be
separated for the first time from parents and friends, and to guide in
career planning. And all this while under permanent observation by the
public, the politics, and the media, and with limited financial and human
With the growth of universities (and the successful work of our
department) our internal meaning grew, at the same time also the
responsibility for more and more administrative tasks, so that the design
aspect - crucial to my own well-being - became less important. So I
decided to look for a new challenge.
My combination of previous professional experiences consisted of a
bundle of competences: the work with individuals (as a coach, careers

adviser, tutor, and mentor), the work with groups (as group dynamics
facilitator, assistant professor, instructor, and lecturer), the work in
different organizational environments (state, non profit) and all this in
combination with a strategic orientation.
On the part of most headhunters I made contact with a change into an
industry job was classified as rather improbable due to my lack of "stable
smell." Within short time, however, I received quite a number of job
offers, mostly by "mavericks" in their respective companies with the
intention to move something anyway.
5.6.2 Volkswagen
I changed to head team and organisation projects in the executive
education centre of the corporate headquarters of the Volkswagen group.
In this centre a basic Volkswagen specific style of management was
trained. A group of almost thirty colleagues carried out an obligatory
training curriculum begun by foremen up to the executive board level with
a high reputation: It was proverbially the "spirit of House Rhode" (the
education and training centre) to be allowed to voice criticism and
improvement suggestions, openness, and direct communication, ignoring
hierarchy limits. Exemplary work in the field of executive education had
been done within the German industrial landscape for years, and a
change of the generations was needed introducing a new style.
This change meant a shift of focus from learning individuals to team and
organizational development and learning. For capacity reasons, only

projects with strategic relevance for the group were picked up and
accompanied by learning organisation measures. So we dealt with the
cooperation with Karmann for the making of the Corrado, the cooperation
with Toyota for the common pick-ups production, the cooperation with
Ford in South America, the beginning cooperation with Skoda and SEAT
as well as the start-up in China. But also substantial changes in the
production processes (from functional organisation to matrix and project
organisation) were accompanied by the learning coaches. There were
the usual organisational problems concerning the limiting regulations of a
corporate framework and the flexibility and freedom needed by various
daughter companies and the power distribution within the group. We
cooperated with many external advisers who teamed with internal
advisers on the projects. By this we sponsored the development of
organisational learning and the growth of the respective consulting
industry. - There were distinctive ways typical for Volkswagen for most
processes. So there always were VW standards in technology besides
the ISO and (the German) DIN standards; there was also a VW
interpretation of labour laws, rights of unions, and works committees /
employees' representation. And consequently each team and
organisation project involved organisational change and involved the
workers' representatives and had to re-balance the power distribution
between workers and management.
During about three years the department itself passed through a drastic
change: the standard seminars were driven back and almost
disappeared; there remained but a standard seminar supply in a few

topics. The major part of the work was dealt with in projects instead.
Many colleagues left the executive education and training centre and
took over functions as "bridgeheads" for projects in daughter companies,
subsidiaries, and the production sites as well as in decentralized
functional areas.
My role as primus inter pares during the departments change and
transformation process gave me a lot of learning opportunities; after three
years I had the chance to either take over a typical career position as line
manager or to wait for a vacant job in the educational or training area.
5.6.3 Bilfinger+Berger Construction - Global Headquarter
I changed the company.
The construction industry had an almost ten years' downward trend
behind itself and the turnaround was close. Future oriented work for the
workforce was necessary to conceptualize and to reintroduce human
resource planning and staff development, "on the green meadow", after a
decade of lay-offs and closing sites.
Conceptualizing human resource planning and development to me meant
to jointly develop ideas with the essential key persons in the group.
However, when the vision was developed, the strategy defined, and the
processes planned in detail, there was another round of lay-offs needed,
and further reduction processes lay ahead. Instead of waiting for the
definite valley bottom, I changed once more.


5.6.4 Krupp Corporate Developing Executive Resources

As the youngest boss for Corporate Executive Resources Development
of a large German group which also had just finished a downward period
another designing and conceptualizing task waited for me.
Within the human resources managers' team we distributed all education
and training and organisational learning tasks: On group level I myself
was responsible for the external representation and the general human
resources marketing and the education and training policy with my own
central team as well as the development of the corporate executives, i.e.
the members of the boards, their deputies and potential successors, for
about one hundred strategic business units. The staff development
executives of the big group divisions (plant construction, special
engineering, steel, trade, services) took on the complete executive
development for all their executives, further education for those fields of
knowledge in which they could be in charge of the entire group, as well
as the general and professional training for their employees. The
apprentice education was taken fundamentally by the local sites. General
topics, like the H.R. forum at the Hanover Fair or the participation in
regional job fairs, were coordinated jointly. This (traditional) work of an
education and training function was merely the frame from our point of
view in which the actual task took place: the design of a new corporate
culture (better: the re-design of the old culture of a traditional industry
group with all the advantages and disadvantages from history) flexibly
combining individual enterprises led entrepreneurially and future-


orientated with using group synergies led by entrepreneurial corporate

It was our aim to reach all individual employees within the group to
understand their (modest but in the end essential) contribution to the
strategy and further development of the entire group.
The development of our H.R. team to embrace this strategy took some
Unfortunately, there was not enough time for the team to reach the long
term goal since the whole group had to enter a drastic and
comprehensive turn-around process. During such periods typically an
extreme focusing is carried out on short-term orientation and on direct
and immediate contribution of each cost centre to the return of the whole.
The immediate effective cut of education and training efforts be
measured on the next balance sheet (i.e. cancel conference participation
or the journey to another location of a group company for learning and
exchange purposes, stop hiring trainees, etc.). These means result in
improvements of budget, but unfortunately they ruin the image and
reputation as an employer (with horrendous subsequent cost increases in
the three, four following years). Internally, the motivation and enthusiasm
of employees is hit, but this is hardly measurable and most other
consequences cannot clearly be linked to any single cause.


Of course the greatest frustration in such an environment was with the

executives of my team feeling responsible for qualitative aspects like
corporate culture and staff well-being. The start-up atmosphere in
Eastern Germany with many challenging and interesting tasks in
designing and building a national economy also helped to dissolve the
Although my own budget at group level wasn't concerned of any cuts, my
central task became senseless without the group of colleagues and the
network and mutual support. Though many thought I was crazy to give up
such a position as a "corporate officer" I decided in favour of the change
into a partnership of change and transformation consultants.
5.6.5 Society for Organisation Development, European Consortium
for the Learning Organization
During quite a number of years I also have respectively taken over tasks
in professional organizations in my main professional areas. I was active
as a graduate student, later as assistant professor, in the professional
community for university didactics in the European Association for
Research and Development in Higher Education and the German
counterpart which is still a major force in transforming the university
education. During my training as a group dynamics coach I became a
member of the Society for Group Education. I also became a foundation
member of the European Association of Personality Psychology during
my graduate studies at the Institute for Personality Research. As a
qualified psychologist I then initiated regional groups of the section for

Work and Organisation Psychology of the German Psychological

Association for some years (Lower Saxony, Baden-Wurttemberg, Hesse,
North Rhine-Westphalia), and also served as a member of the executive
board of the Section. In this function I had accepted the responsibility for
the first annual convention which successfully managed to draw the
attention of those psychologists to the association which had left in the
course of their professional career when becoming General Managers
and Corporate Executives growing beyond applying psychological knowhow and methods only. I was then also supporting the establishment of
the European Association of Work and Organization Psychology. I am
still engaged as an international member of the American Psychological
Association. For some time I was an active member of the Society for
Organisation Development while working as an organisation
development consultant; according to the organisation learning
philosophy we established the society as a learning organisation with
most of the power in decentralized regional action groups organizing
themselves, with a leadership group and a central office as a
coordination centre. With my personal job changes I have co-founded
and led regional groups in Hanover (Volkswagen), Rhine-Main-Neckar
(Bilfinger+Berger) and Rhine-Ruhr (Krupp), and also served on regional
boards and in the central committee. We also dissolved the society when
the general interest in organisation development disappeared with the
knowledge, know-how, and methods having entered mainstream
thinking, teaching, and practice. By the sale to the editor team merely our
"journal for organisation development" survived, still being a virtual
assembly point of the German-speaking expert community. It remains

one of the few cases of a society deciding on its own active dissolution normally societies continue to exist until they "die" for lack of paying
members! I myself shifted my organization development interest on
international fields of work and remained an active member of the
International Organization Development Association as well as an active
personal member of the European Consortium for The Learning, newly
founded in the early Nineties to spread the idea of a systems dynamics
approach. As a personnel manager, I was an active member of the
German Society for Personnel Management and the European
counterpart; due to my international tasks as Human Resources
Executive I also became involved in the international chapters of
associations like the Society for Human Resources Management. Within
the last years I was a founding member and also served on the executive
board of the Association for Knowledge Management.
5.6.6 House of Management
During some years I then have carried out large scale organizational
development projects, together with two core partners and additional
associate partners when needed. Our main emphasis was on
conceptualization -- we have supported many of the renowned enterprise
consultation firms, transforming their theoretical concepts in realizable
change projects. We then have supported the project managers
responsible for those projects by coaching, occasionally also their
customers directly, especially during kick-off of the projects and in
emergency and crisis situations the consultants could not manage.


Sometimes we were asked for by clients to take a more active role in the
projects, usually as members of the project steering committees.
We were active at many large scale and complex cross-border mergers
and take-overs, with a focus on post merger integration, corporate
restructuring as well as regional or country development programs during
several years.
In most cases we stayed in the background, and the bays were carried
off by the top managers, top advisers and politicians. We got our
satisfaction by experiencing that our concepts and plans were
successfully put into action that our ideas could be filled with lives by
others. And even in the long run the main ideas remained unchanged.
Partially up to this day.
Unsatisfactory to us was the situation when we had discerned
undesirable developments from our point of view but we could not take
the responsibility, especially when consultants preferred not to intervene
in order to make a later profit from the then needed crisis support. These
advisers were paid mostly rates per day so that they could safely wait for
the next crisis then to ask for a prolongation of their mandates or even
special orders at higher rates for mastering the (unpredicted) crisis
situation! To us this wasn't fun - to act against good knowledge - though
our fire department-games were extremely well paid for. Our success
resulted in many career jumps of customers executives - and
responsible managers quite often boasted only for the initiative for a
project and until it came to the successful and completed putting into

action they were no longer in office, had gone to more important task
assignments. And we had to manage the take-over by new managers,
something most managers do not like (still it is not considered as positive
career contribution to continue someone elses project).
Accordingly my own interest grew to accept the responsibility for a large
scale transformation out of a demanding executive position with a long
term orientation.
5.6.7 Sulzer Metco Joining Forces
The Sulzer group had made it possible for its surface coating technology
division to take over the main global competitor, then the Metco (the
metalizing company) division of the Perkin-Elmer group. Now it was
necessary to fully integrate the other acquisitions from previous years,
and to form a new group of companies from the worldwide more than
forty companies of the previous enterprises, with all new processes,
structures, culture, and spirit.
All organization structures and business processes were defined and
altered globally. It was necessary to create a new (common) corporate
quality and business leadership culture at the same time.
In the management team of the holding which steered this post merger
integration and corporate renewal process I took over the lead of global
TQM and HR. The other team members focussed on plant construction
engineering, machines and parts production, surface coating services as
well as coating materials and marketing and sales. Additional members

included strategy and the embedding to the Sulzer corporate, technology

and innovation, finance, and business development and new business
fields as well as for the operations and logistics.
The blueprint for the project had been developed by the leading global
strategy consultant firm. The implementation was done without any
external support then. A year later the consultant firm accepted the task
to deliver a report on the quality of our implementation, and to their
surprise they concluded that our post merger integration had become the
most successful project they had ever observed, according to all kinds of
measures. From our point of view the success resulted from the fact that
we had done the transformation without the services of the external
advisers and have relied on the control and steering by our team and
have backed the ability of our managers and experts to design their own
future together. Communication and the perpetual and continuous reconsideration and new agreement on responsibilities, structures and
processes for more than a year, and the ongoing reflection of our
cooperation were essential. To realize the extra work we had used
additional staff of our own for a while; to handle representations and the
temporary take-over of additional special tasks which arise in such a
mammoth project. Immediately after the merger we left some positions
filled twice until new business operations had been established and the
new structure had proved operative and was running smoothly.
For some time I was considered the left hand of the CEO (with the CFO
being his other hand) during the daily operations of such a large scale
change and transformation project, with a general manager attitude

rather than limited HR perspective. The further expansion originally

expected couldn't be financed from corporate resources when needed,
alternative financing methods (we even considered a management buyout) weren't followed up further. When the special post merger integration
phase moved into normal operations I decided to leave.
5.6.8 Andersen Consulting
I had already advised Andersen Consulting years ago before. At the time
then, the partners wanted to position the firm also as a strategic partner
and as a generalist to be included in planning processes in enterprises
early and comprehensively, re-focussing away from the long-standing
main emphasis on IT implementation consultation. While trying the new
positioning, one had experienced difficulties repeatedly, since the
necessary skills and experiences could not easily developed inside and
external partners could not be integrated into the existing strong
corporate culture. The culture was marked by university graduates:
graduates were hired and trained and promoted internally and some time
later - after eight to ten years they became partners, as a rule.
Crossways beginners had a hard time, they were hired for the experience
and their direct access to senior decision-makers and top executives, the
existing partners were lacking. However, when they then took up their
work, they were first told by their peers to adapt the successful Andersen
way and to fit in like all others had been doing. I had been coaching
individual partners as an external adviser and gave recommendation to
those partners responsible for transforming the firm towards a more open
and integration capable culture.

I was asked, years later, whether I could imagine then to become a

partner joining from outside. Moreover, there was interest in my merger
integration experience as well as in my background in the area of
strategic human resources function. It was, at that time, the partnerships
strategic target to become the largest consultancy firm in the area of
"human capital"; after reengineering had been introduced successfully in
almost all lines of business of their customers, all other business
processes and the business operations were newly defined and
optimized and had been equipped with supporting software, the now
emerging question was whether and how far the human resources
function might also contribute to business success, which business
processes it must steer and in what terms its success should be
measured, and finally, whether IT could be supportive.
I joined the small global team of partners steering the project to create
the basis to reach this strategic target for the whole partnership. Quite a
number of experienced human resources managers was hired as well as
thousands of young graduates with interest in this area of competence.
The corresponding training program internally was drafted and the
substantial consulting service packages were developed. To do this, all
the knowledge about human resources related processes collected in the
past in many previous consulting projects was sighted, analyzed, and
summarized. And all knowledge externally available (of experts from
publications and conferences) was also processed and provided for the
planning. Expert hearing and internal workshops were carried out.


Altogether, almost one hundred million dollars were all in all available for
the project work, invested over a period of about three years.
When this effortful project had most largely progressed, first customer
contacts were made and first pilot projects had been started, a general
reorientation of the partnership hit us. The leadership group changed,
and a strategic U-turn was decided. The strict separation from Arthur
Andersen whose partners had direct access to CFOs, the financial world,
administration and personnel officers at accounting, tax, and legal issues,
led to the consideration that partners of the new Andersen Consulting
partnership would have a more difficult situation to address the
responsible executives for HR processes. By focussing on the IT
implementation of HR software and outsourcing of administrative
processes the area of "strategic Human Capital" became obsolete and
was less integrated within the consulting portfolio.
Most peers from the HR expert area left the partnership again during the
following years. Some changed their role, since within general consulting
as well as all outsourcing projects dealing with so-called soft factors"
became more and more demanded we called this change with a small
c in contrast to Change with a capital C like in large scale mergers,
acquisitions, re-structuring, and strategic projects in which change and
transformation management are key elements.
Temporarily, I still have supported some great global merger projects
myself. These rather selective projects weren't satisfying and didn't
correspond with my accumulated experience any more, though.

5.6.9 ABB - Alstom Power - Demerger

So I changed to become a member of the leadership team at ALSTOM
Power Combined Cycle Power Plants Engineering and Global Projects
Execution. For two years ABB and ALSTOM had formed a joint venture
of their POWER PLANT activities; ALSTOM had then taken on the half of
ABB. In the networked structure of ABB which consisted of relatively
independent units many contributing units played together globally to
conceptualize, sell, engineer, and build a complex power station ready to
be handed over to the operating energy provider. Within the new
hierarchic order of ALSTOM project teams were installed to head and
coordinate the different tasks and to steer the running projects worldwide
for over 50 power stations, now to be sold, engineered, built up, and
operated by country companies, engineering companies and production
places coordinated within the ALSTOM group of companies.
This project was not planned as a complex transformation process but
was naively looked at as a normal management task. Regretfully the
executives heading the new units were not selected according to the
needed set of experiences and skills, especially lacking entrepreneurial
spirit to (re-)create a new culture. (Ten years ago, power stations were
ordered by predominantly state energy supply companies usually with
technicians deciding on the specifications for the new plant. If the plant
was too expensive at completion, this resulted in increasing energy
prices for the consumers. Nowadays power stations are usually ordered
(and paid for) by financial service providers; if specifications promised
originally are not adhered to and cost exceed the original budget, the

project management companies have to pay for this. Accordingly

modular plants are asked for made from standard elements with
reduced engineering efforts using also economy of scale effects in
production. At the ABB ALSTOM de-merger too many internal friction
losses between the involved units resulted in key persons leaving within
short time, and developments were taken back again on half way.
Multiple changes of responsibilities and once more new structures within
months increased the complexity. - Since I didn't want to take
responsibility for such an approach promising little probability of a
successful de-merger phase, I left the enterprise (the stock exchange
quotation of over 33 then has dropped to just over 30 cents. There is no
significant correlation between me leaving and this collapse, but it shows
that others did share my view.)
5.6.10 Corporate Board Services Governance and
Since I had to work predominantly with control of complex business
processes and organization units, it was a consistent further development
to devote myself to the improvement in governance, support real
entrepreneurship and focus on supervision of planning, decision-making,
and steering functions.
I am convinced that - among other things - the quality and success of
organisational development and learning projects depends on the match
between individuals executives, managers, experts - and the kind of
organization structure and culture. Only if these matches have been

made with the appropriate professionalism and are being monitored

continuously, there will be a profitable business and successful
organisation. In other words: The composition and dynamics of the board
of directors is the key element in success and profitability.
In the past, most supervisory bodies, boards of directors, no matter if one
tier or two tier structure, with German stamp or Anglo-American stamp,
the controlling teams of public legal facilities or foundation councils and
the control teams of large scale projects consisted predominantly of
individuals with homogeneous spirit and mentality or they were
hierarchical and not operating as teams. They fulfilled their tasks in a
rather non-professional way. To optimize the quality of governance
processes of organizations of any type it is necessary to check the
composition (all business functions should be controlled with the
respective expertise) and the cooperation (the different personalities in
the group should be capable of bringing in their experience in a
constructive dialogue) and to initiate change measures if required (i.e.
exchange members of the committees, add further members to improve
viewpoints by individual members, extend the ability to deal with
controversial topics and conflicts by individual coaching and by team
development activities in the committee).
At my recent consulting practice the four business fields stood with equal
rights beside each other and complemented each other: 1. Support of
businessmen, top managers, former advisers who were interested in
supervision mandates. Candidates who were suitable for mandates
because they have entrepreneurial strategic abilities and operative

management experiences as well as independent and available are

included in a "pool". Through this the occupation of mandates is faster
and qualitatively ensured at high level with professional governors. 2.
Support of chairmen and members of supervisory bodies concerning all
aspects of corporate governance. 3. Support of whole committees to
improve their composition and dynamics. 4. Support of stakeholders as
investors, fund managers, lenders, insurers, re-insurers, permitting
authorities and controlling institutions, etc. which are dependent on the
qualification of supervisory bodies.
Furthermore I am - particularly indirect or "behind the scenes" - initiator
and companion of complex developments of organizations, businesses,
and public services, partnering with our clients regarding strategic,
entrepreneurial questions and all aspects of enterprise leadership and
supervision, corporate governance in the broadest sense. Originally we
started our practice as business angels with a very personal touch; then
we grew into a more professional consulting business still with the
partnership attitude towards our clientele and with an idealistic mission
statement towards excellence in (corporate) governance.
In the last three years, however, we have almost completely left the
consulting business model. Instead we engage into real entrepreneurial
partnerships. We invest our time, expertise, experience, skills, and
contacts to define new business or renewed business, help with our
network to find strategic options and financial solutions and commonly
decide on interim management solutions until the enterprises become
self-sustaining units (again). Instead of consulting fees we take shares of

the units and/or stock options and agree to shareholder agreements that
ensure a long term sustainable business under our (co-) governance. We
serve as members of the board of directors or we delegate this role to
associate partners of our network. - We are now confronted with more
and more requests for entrepreneurial partnerships thus filling the gap
between friends and family, strategic, legal, auditing, and general
consultants, and brokers on the one hand and business partners with
their own (hidden) agendas when talking about partnerships or joint
We are currently in the process of conceptualizing our approach to
become the basis of a private equity fond-like investment vehicle to
enable more partnerships with less financial constraints.
In the tradition of the political-cultural dialogues of past centuries we have
re-created the Deidesheimer Circle, a regular meeting for executives and
entrepreneurs using story-telling to further our understanding of complex
interrelations between individual, group, business, and societal change
and transformation. There is already a similar African version event (in a
culture in which story-telling has been familiar until the sons went to
Business Schools to learn better ways) of the Deidesheimer Circle, and
one of my friends is partnering with one of the leading micro-finance
banks on the African continent, and for sure it will fundamentally change
the power distribution in some countries.


I am convinced this is still organisation change and organisational

learning work, though the words are no longer used to describe what we
are doing.

5.7 Private Life Re-considered

For me there seems to be a counter-balance between my professional
and private development. On the one hand there have been many career
moves in my work life, a lot of leaving and joining periods, shifts of focus,
scope, and depth. On the other hand I share my private life for more than
a quarter century now with my wife, and we have adopted just a few
years ago our next generation, a prime example of cross-cultural
integration on a very emotional level. And now we are challenged to find
out the kind of legacy we want to leave professionally,
entrepreneurially, and personally.


Chapter 6
The Knowledge Ecosystem;
A model for the Second Generation Learning Organisation

Andrew Haldane
6.1 Introduction
Those who find themselves in a position of strategic influence within a
21st-century organisation might find it slightly disconcerting to reflect on
the fact that one of their key assets, knowledge, is both more or less
immeasurable and of immeasurable importance. Nevertheless, the aim of
this chapter is engage precisely such reflection and to examine
knowledge and its productive utilisation from an alternative perspective;
by viewing it as both a source of energy and a raw material and by
comparing and contrasting its properties with those of physical sources of
energy and physical materials.
That majority of the current managerial work force who are from a digital
immigrant as opposed to a digital native generation should, nevertheless,
have been schooled since their early careers in the effective
management of human resources pivotal to the effective utilisation of
knowledge assets. They will be familiar with, and conscious of, the twin
drivers of human resource management; the societal pressures towards


securing a decent quality of working life and the impact of motivation on

the quality of outputs and on productivity.
However, within their working lives a single generation of managers have
been party to, and presided over, a paradigm shift in how human
resources are deployed. Far fewer employees are now to be found
utilising their tacit knowledge of how to produce physical products and far
more will be concerned with utilizing their tacit knowledge to interpret
analyse and otherwise interact productively with an immeasurably richer
and more accessible range of sources of explicit knowledge.
For many of us currently in the work force our understanding of
organisations , and how to manage them, has been shaped by systems
thinking, a recognition that organisations only make sense when seen,
not in isolation, but as open systems interacting with their environment in
much the same way as do biological organisms. This chapter therefore
seeks also to revisit the open system model of the organisation and to
identify more explicitly the knowledge inputs, processes and outputs.

6.2 Knowledge; A Source of Infinitely Renewable Energy

One of the earliest, and most frequently cited, observations as to the
nature of knowledge is sufficiently venerable for the phrase to have been
originally coined in Latin Nam et ipsa scientia potestas est (Bacon
1597) usually translated as knowledge is power. Today this has
connotations of the Machiavellian manipulation of knowledge for personal
or political (with a large or small p) gain. Moving among the upper

echelons of society in Tudor England, and writing at the time when the
issue of the succession to the aging and heir-less Queen Elizabeth
was exercising the minds of power brokers, Francis Bacon would
certainly have mixed with some of the most devious political wheelerdealers in history. He was a gifted intellectual, one of the greatest
philosophers of the medieval world, and is even credited by some as
being the true author of at least some of the work usually attributed to
William Shakespeare. Although inspired originally by alchemy, Bacon
was arguably the first person to develop the processes of deductive
reasoning and scientific experimentation.
Bacon thus had an understanding of knowledge as the driving force of
innovation, and of how insight into the laws of nature was the key to
scientific, economic and societal advancement. In coining his nostrum he
was explaining how the use of logical reasoning, for example cause and
effect, might empower philosophers to express innovative ideas without
being accused of heresy. He was thus not describing the relationship
between knowledge and power purely in the narrow power-political sense
in which Bacon's catchphrase is often used today. Likewise, equating
knowledge and power in the context of social inequity, the gulf between
the information rich and the information poor (Doctor,1991) may be
perfectly valid but is rather more than a simple extrapolation from
Bacon's original context.
The citation here of Bacon s proposition that knowledge is power is
intended to set the scene for an examination of a 21st century variation;

the proposition that knowledge can be seen as constituting the

fundamental power source that drives todays knowledge economy;
By its very nature, knowledge is an intangible asset that often moves in
mysterious ways its wonders to perform. Is it possible that our apparently
sophisticated knowledge management systems will seem to some
metaphysical scientists of future generations as being comparable to
Bacons attempts to break away from alchemy and invent the physical
scientific method?
This chapter will not aim to address the philosophical question posed
above, but, by drawing parallels between the physical sources of energy
that powered the old industrial economy and knowledge as the energy
source that powers the knowledge-intensive industries of the 21st century
it will seek to provoke some thinking about the nature of learning and how
we might deploy the precious intellectual resources on which we depend
so much.

6.3 The Ultimate Super-Fuel

The fuel most associated with powering the first Industrial Revolution was
coal, and coal could also be used as a raw material to produce, for
example disinfectants and various other chemical products. Similarly,
knowledge is more than just a power source for the Knowledge
Economy. Knowledge too can serve as an energising force, a driver of
organisational transformation and a raw material, the transformation of
which can add marketable value. (Haldane 2000)

The use of this analogy to help understand the process of innovation has
previously been explored by a team of ECLO members working in an EUsupported research project (Kelleher et al 2001). This group examined
how knowledge, when thought of as a power source driving 21st century
knowledge-intensive organisations, has some interesting characteristics
when compared to older sources of energy such as coal. The old fuels
and raw materials such as coal are mined at great human cost and
transported at considerable effort and expense. They are messy in use,
they pollute the atmosphere, and solid waste from mining has disfigured
many landscapes. Knowledge, in contrast, is a product of the human
mind that can be transported across the globe at the click of a mouse
without detriment to the environment.
However there is a more fundamental difference between coal and
knowledge as an energy source:
Coal is consumed.
Knowledge is not consumed in use
Knowledge can be used time and time again.
Knowledge actually grows through use as we learn from experience or
share ideas with others.
However, as we shall discuss in more detail later using and interacting
with knowledge may create new knowledge, but the extent to which this
happens depends on the nature and culture of the organisation and the
way in which it is managed. Returning to the fossil fuel analogy above,


we need to be sure there is a source of ignition and not just hope for
spontaneous combustion.
Nonaka et al (2000a) describe the process of knowledge creation as an
upward spiral. They suggest that an organisation creates knowledge, not
just by confronting and solving problems, but by generating and defining
new problems applying new knowledge to resolve them and then moving
on to a further problem generation and solving cycle. Those whose daily
lives may be characterised by a need to confront problems which they
have not actually generated but which seem to appear from nowhere
may not distinctively empathise with the proposition that problem
generation and definition is the basis of knowledge creation.
However, if we take a positive view that it is the pursuit of opportunity that
leads to innovation then we will encounter a number of hurdles that need
to be surmounted before we achieve our goals. Aiming to achieve the
most desirable outcome by examining a number of possible scenarios is
likely to involve the specification and testing of a number of alternative
If neither desperation nor inspiration really come at us from out of the
blue then maybe the best new ideas do actually emerge from a
continuous process of defining, analysing and resolving problems.


6.4 Breaking the Rules; The Mad Mathematics of Knowledge

In the nineteenth century creative and enthusiastic engineers, who
dreamed of developing a perpetual motion machine saw their dreams
fade as the laws of physics were refined to the point where the futility of
the quest became obvious.
Knowledge is a 21st century energy source that continually renews itself
and grows through sharing and learning. It is a perpetual motion machine
that can not only drive and sustain itself but can drive and sustain whole
industries. It is this opportunity to make use of sharing and exchange
processes to cultivate a new and expanded knowledge-base tothe
mutual benefit of individuals and organisations that should be a defining
characteristic of 21st century industry.
Following the metaphor above, it could be argued that knowledge as a
fuel or raw material appears to defy those laws of nature so painstakingly
worked out in the context of the energy sources of days gone by. For
example, one of the ways in which Knowledge is increased rather than
consumed through usage is when people with different knowledge sets
and perspectives share their ideas, thus creating new knowledge and
insights which none of them previously possessed. As young children
being taught mathematics one of the first things we learn is that giving
and receiving is a zero sum game. If I have two apples and I give one
away then I have one apple left.


The concept of sharing is often used to teach division; if Jane has eight
cakes and shares them equally with three friends than all four children
have two each. However, in the context of knowledge sharing we can
have our cake and eat it. If I pass on some knowledge I still retain it. If
each four people share one unit of knowledge unique to that individual
then each one now possesses four units of knowledge and all are the
wiser for it. To share is to multiply (Kelleher 2000).
Nonaka et al (ibid) also see knowledge sharing as part of the process of
knowledge creation.
They describe a SECI process involving four modes of knowledge

Socialisation; the process of converting new tacit knowledge

through shared experiences;

Externalisation; the process of crystallising knowledge by

articulating tacit knowledge into explicit knowledge;

Combination; the process of converting explicit knowledge or from

inside or outside the organisation into more complex and
systematic sets of explicit knowledge and;

Internalisation; the sharing of new sets of explicit knowledge within

the organisation and its conversion to tacit knowledge by the
individual recipients.

In so much of our daily lives we take it for granted that the process of
sharing involves somebody gaining and somebody else losing.

Thompson et al (2009), in developing a model of the knowledge transfer

process within organisations also recognise that this is not a zero-sum
game, they observe, however, that knowledge may not be shared
effectively if it is simply made available to a recipient. Engagement by the
recipient, the process of internalising the accessed knowledge (cf. the
SECI model Nonaka et al, 2000a) so that it is retained in the form that
makes it usable to the recipient is considered to be essential if the
knowledge transfer is to have any real impact.
However if we accept that knowledge transfer is not a zero-sum game
and that, in this context "to share is to multiply" we may need to ask
some questions as to whether, when we attempt to develop strategies for
harnessing the power of knowledge, we could be locked into a mindset
shaped by laws of physics and mathematics to which knowledge does
not conform. If we are sometimes reluctant to share our knowledge is it
because we are we simply worried that someone else may gain credit
from the fruits of our wisdom? Or perhaps we become so hard-wired
through our experience of zero-sum games in the physical world that the
to share is to multiply law of knowledge-sharing is too psychologically
counter-intuitive to serve as he instinctive rule that guides our intellectual
transactions. Those who think that by sharing less than others they hoard
their own knowledge and grab someone elses miss out on how their
contribution to a group discussion could provide feedback that would
enrich their thinking.
The remainder of this chapter will nevertheless seek to venture into that
parallel universe where knowledge as a metaphysical raw material, and a

self renewing, inexhaustible energy source drives many business

processes and shapes the continual metamorphosis of fast evolving
organisations. There is no intention of going boldly into some strange
new galaxy of infinite knowledge purely on an exploratory mission, but
simply to take a fresh look at the learning organisation in much the same
way as technology has allowed us to take a look at the world from the
different perspective of outer space.

6.5 Knowledge Ecology and Organisation Theory

For the purposes of reflecting on how the processes of knowledge
transformation may follow a different logic, or a different set of rules, from
those that apply to the transformation of physical matter, a potential
starting point may be an exploration of how one specific analogy to the
laws of nature has already been used to assist our understanding of
organisational theory.
In their seminal work "The Social Psychology of Organizations" Katz and
Kahn (1978) drew on open systems theory; the analogy between an
organisation's interaction with its environment and the ways in which
biological organisms interact constantly with their environment.
Open systems theory draws upon the laws of thermodynamics and in
particular the notion of "entropy". Entropy is a measure of disorder. When
energy is released by burning coal complex hydrocarbons are broken
down into simpler molecules such as carbon dioxide and water. Thus the
energy is released by creating disorder from order and the entropy of the
universe is increased. Biological entities and organisations appear to flout

this law of nature by generating "negative entropy. Organisms create

complex outputs such as protein, organisations create tangible products
from less complex material inputs. It is when the transactions between
such entities and their environment are taken into account that the laws
of nature are satisfied as positive entropy increases in a manner these
days often expressed in terms of the "carbon footprint".
However we have argued above that the reactions and interactions that
release the power of knowledge do not lead to that knowledge being
consumed or broken down and that since knowledge sharing is not a
zero-sum game it does not conform to the mathematical principles that
underpin the physical sciences. Knowledge sharing and creativity
increase the metaphysical equivalent of negative entropy.
Suppose Newton's formulation of the laws of gravity really was inspired
by the proverbial falling apple. Do we then wish to equate in some way
the power of Newtonian physics to the entropy derived from the
breakdown of fructose from some apples he ate earlier, followed by the
use of some of that energy to fire off the relevant neurons?
In their contribution to systems theory, Katz and Kahn (ibid) importantly
drew attention to organisations transactions with the environment as
extending beyond the input throughput and output of tangible materials.
While recognising that such exchanges might embrace knowledge as a
driver of change, in the relatively stable industrial climate of the time it
was the exchanges with the socio-cultural environment and the influence
of these on workforce motivation to which they drew attention that were
perhaps of greater interest to many of their readers.

Figure 1 below seeks to re-visualise the organisation as an open system

to reflect the knowledge economy and the more knowledge-intensive
nature of organisations operating within it in the 21st century.
While recognising that tangible inputs and throughputs still generate
tangible outputs in the form of products and services, the model seeks to
identify flows that more explicitly track the harnessing of knowledge as
source of power and a raw material. Within such an organisation the
knowledge-fuelled "innovation engine" may be less obvious than the
steam-fuelled engines that powered many organisations during the first
industrial revolution.
What coal-powered organisations, knowledge-powered organisations and
biological entities have in common, when considered as open systems, is
the fact that if their engagement and exchanges with the environment do
not function effectively then they die. A biological organism insofar as it
can defy ageing and delay death does so through its ability to renew and
regenerate itself at the level of the individual cells. A learning
organisation has renewal in its DNA but the innovation engine is not the
boardroom. It is everywhere.
The cluster of cells which makes up the boardroom team may have more
power than most but an animal whose heart is in great shape can still
struggle with liver disease. A plant with a great root system still needs a
canopy of healthy green leaves. An organisation, like an organism, is
dependent on the optimum performance of each of its cells and the ways
in which clusters of cells collectively perform vital functions.


An organisation that is powered by ideas and feeds on knowledge has,

however, a head start on the biological entities that work for it. When it
feeds on knowledge its food supply replenishes itself as it feasts.
However, while each cell and each cluster of cells within a knowledge
ecosystem may be a place where ideas can germinate they need an
environment within which the green shoots of inspiration can take root
and flourish.
Figure 1: The Knowledge Eco-System

Socio- Political Environment

Economic Environment
Sector Business Environment/Suppliers
Physical and








Recurrent Throughputs


The Innovation


Creativity-New or Modified

Transient Corporate
Tacit Employee
Explicit Knowledge

(eg. Image

Strategic Vision,

Human Capital

External Knowledge Base

Public Domain Knowledge

Placed in
Public Domain

Acquired (Outsourced) Knowledge

The reason for constructing an alternative version of a relatively familiar

systems thinking model is to emphasise the importance of two-way

transmission of knowledge across the boundaries of the organisation for

the purposes of organisational learning rather than the throughput, input
and output of the knowledge-intensive products and services that form
the core activity of so many 21st-century organisations.
Zaheer and Bell, for example have suggested that superior network
structures may enable firms to exploit better their internal capabilities.
They recognise, as does the knowledge ecosystem model and some of
the discussion below, that internal knowledge networks may be
important. However, they suggest that the embeddedness of firms in
networks of external relationships with other organisations may be key to
improved performance. Nonaka et al (2000a) also suggest that ideas for
corporate strategy may be found through extra-firm social information
collection, and propose that, once in a while, "management by wandering
about"; a less formal interaction with external experts and others in a
similar line of business, may be beneficial.

6.6 Knowledge Assets and Human Capital- Strategic

Planning Issues
By virtue of their intangibility the creative and intellectual business
processes can be difficult to analyse much less to manage. The
Knowledge Ecosystem model therefore, although it aims to illustrate the
processes through which the physical assets of the business are
deployed, particularly seeks to highlight the intellectual activity within an
organisation. As suggested above, the process of harnessing knowledge
is implicit in earlier applications of a biological systems metaphor to

organisations, but at that time the focus on human transactions between

the organisation and its environment tended to relate more to influences
on behaviour in the wider context of people management. The notion of
organisational learning as being multifaceted in nature, and subject to
similar external influences, is explored by Lipshitz et al (2002). They
recognise that the quality of organisational learning is dependent on a
range of factors; cultural, psychological, policy and contextual which
together facilitate learning. However, as with knowledge itself, the
intangibility of many of these factors might mitigate against their receiving
appropriate management attention. How to manage the physical assets
of the organisation is both something that confronts us throughout the
working day and something that lends itself to the development of
business processes; a task much more difficult than attempting to juggle
with the organisation's intangible assets
When managing the physical assets of an organisation, particularly those
used to to deliver tangible products and services we have three natural foci:
1. How can we continuously improve the outputs and profits we
generate through better utilisation of current assets?
2. How can we improve still further through the renewal and updating
of our physical asset base?
3. Are there new opportunities to break into new markets and/or
provide new products and services that changes to our physical
asset base will make feasible?


When making an investment in physical assets we can also usually

calculate with reasonable accuracy the return we may expect from that
investment, particularly where increased productivity can be accurately
forecast. The development of knowledge assets and human capital
should ideally be directed toward answering essentially the same three
investment planning questions above. However, intangible assets are just
that-intangible. The systematic planning and cost benefit analysis
processes that enable us to manage physical assets effectively may be
difficult or impossible to apply, hence the effort that so many
organisations devote to knowledge management. 21st century
knowledge management systems are certainly a world away from what
prevailed just a generation ago when the vast majority of businesses
knowledge assets were retained only in the heads of their employees and
even the search and retrieval of paper documents was critically
dependent on the tacit knowledge of those who knew where to find
things. However, while the capture, search and retrieval of knowledge
may be handled efficiently can we be as confident that we are managing
its creation effectively?
The renewal of our physical assets is a series of step changes, some big
some small, that are implemented at specific moments in time. The
knowledge assets of an organisation will sometimes change through
processes that are somewhat comparable, for example when a research
project is commissioned and then delivered. However, knowledge assets
are also changing every second of the working day as employees


experience something new, even if through only a slight deviation from

the norm
The process of knowledge creation is often rather like John Lennon's
view of life; something that happens while you're busy doing other things.
Sometimes in life, for some people, the passive approach to life will yield
rich rewards. As discussed in the introductory paragraph knowledge is
pretty powerful stuff that feeds on itself, and in a knowledge-intensive
environment serendipity happens. However, in your organisation, or the
division or team that you lead how much pro-active thinking goes into the
systematic enhancement and deployment of that Distinctive
Competence which today and tomorrow gives our organisation the edge
of the competition?
Burt (2004) has linked the propensity to generate good ideas to
structural holes in social networks. His rationale is that opinions and
behaviours are more homogeneous among people within a group while
different sets of opinions and behaviours are common among other
Some people fulfil a brokerage function, bridging these structural holes
between groups.
One might speculate that sometimes, smart uses of information
technology could plug structural holes. However, if the benefit, in terms of
ideas generation, that is derived from the more heterogeneous contacts
that occupants of structural holes enjoy, then we can enhance these
benefits by cultivating a more diverse set of contacts for those who

normally interact mostly with people occupying similar roles. Technology

can help by enabling participation in internal or external communities of
practice with a broader focus. We can also look to opportunities to
include outsiders in team meetings where some new thinking is an
intended outcome

6.7 Juggling with Different Imperatives

When managing our organisations physical assets, day to day pressures
and crisis management may well crowd our agenda, but longer term
thinking, and the process of renewal, has a way of muscling in and we
find ourselves asking questions such as;.
How can we cut down those maintenance costs?
What productivity gains might new investment s in plant yield?
Despite the power of ideas, issues related to the intangible intellectual
assets of the organisation may not necessarily muscle their way up the
agenda. We are unlikely to ask comparable questions to those above
such as;
Is our innovation engine clapped out? Has it stopped working and nobody
Is our knowledge ecosystem function properly as an open system fully
abreast of new ideas in the wider environment, or are we mostly a closed
system re-cycling our old thinking internally?

Worse still are we really a collection of closed systems within which

teams and divisions continually recycle their old thinking with insufficient
exposure to smart ideas generated elsewhere?
A good knowledge management system will go a long way toward
addressing the last of the above questions, but the first two may be more
problematic. As with the management of physical assets harnessing the
power of ideas involves addressing both present and future imperatives
as summarised in figure 2 below.

Figure 2: The Imperatives Driving the Knowledge Ecosystem


Knowledge Ecosystem Activity

Action Lines
Action Line One

Deploying current knowledge effectively so as

The Present

to perform that which we do today as well as


is humanly possible: Reflectivity

Action Line Two

Action Line Three

Discovering how to do the things we do today

The Future

even better in the future


Discovering how to do new things in future

that further enhance the pursuit of our
organisations mission.

Action Line Four

Capacity Building, developing human capital

The Future
The Future


Since it is the effective pursuit of the present imperative on which the

survival of the organisation and its ability to generate the resource
needed to invest in the future depends, it is quite logical that this should
be most peoples' preoccupation for most of the time. However, the
present imperative does not imply stasis. Action line two highlights the
need to avoid a view of the firm as a static machine processing
information internally, and from the environment, with a narrow focus on
the current problem and goal (Nonaka et al, 2000b). They argue that
creating new knowledge around current tasks requires a dynamic
process of knowledge creation identifying problems that may not
currently confront us and identifying means of resolution.
Argote and Ingram (2000) concur with the general tenor of this chapter in
that they recognise the creation and transfer of knowledge as a basis for
building competitive advantage. They suggest that different pockets of
expertise arise through the personal and team specialisms that
appropriately evolve to address the present imperative.These they call
knowledge reservoirs, and suggest that they may provide a reason why
the knowledge transfer necessary for driving change may sometimes be
difficult to accomplish.
While the metaphor explored by way of introduction to this chapter
contrasts the processes of burning and learning in the sense in the sense
that burning is destructive and learning constructive the analogy
between consuming coal and creating knowledge may still be helpful as
basis for reflecting on what we need to do to harness the power of the
human intellect effectively.

To make sense of physical energy we need to understand that it can

exist in a number of forms, so maybe analysis of the different forms that
metaphysical energy, knowledge, might take could be equally instructive.
For primitive man fire was both a source of heat and light. In many
climates if you have no external source of heat you will die. In that sense,
maintaining a fire as a source of heat was very much the present
However, fire also generates light,and its powers of illumination were
doubtless much appreciated. Having a source of light meant that useful
activities could be undertaken during the period of time between sunset
and sunrise.
In the learning organisation we need to use the power of knowledge to
generate both heat and light.The heat is the knowledge energy we
devote to the present imperative of keeping the organisation alive in a
cold hard world by continuously improving what we do now.
So although the expression "generating more heat than light" is
sometimes used to describe high levels of activity that don't produce too
much of value, when developing the energy metaphor in this chapter we
certainly don't knock the generation of heat. If knowledge is our power
source then the heat it generates helps us to prosper today - so the more
the merrier.


Some primitive people probablymanaged to get by and survive by

getting on with those tasks that they could perform satisfactorilyin the
glow of the campfire or by lighting a torch. But the real trailblazers were
those who learned how to make torches.
How do you rate your organisations use of its knowledge to light up the
future? Are you hoping to see your way by the light of the campfire?
We will return to the power of knowledge as a source of heat and light
again below. But in the meantime some reflections on the process of
ignition may hopefully prove illuminating.

6.8 Light my Fire

As a power source for the first industrial revolution coal had two useful
attributes. Firstly, it released lots of energy when it burned. Secondly, it
was not prone to spontaneous combustion and so could be safely
transported and stored. Learning may be different from burning in the
sense that, far from being consumed in use knowledge is very likely to
increase but it too may need a spark to ignite it.
Coal remains stable up to the point of use because a small input of
energy the potential energy is needed to release the much greater
potential energy stored within it. Similarly the power of knowledge can
remain dormant unless something is done to release that power.


An extension of the biological open system metaphor by drawing

analogies with the physical sciences and deploying the laws of
thermodynamics has been explored by,for example Emery and
Trist, (1965).
However it has been argued above that knowledge, because it feeds on
itself and multiplies continuously through sharing and engagement with
both explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge of others, is rather different
from physical sources of energy such as coal which are broken down and
consumed in use whereas knowledge grows and becomes more complex
through use. The reflection below on how an analogy to the laws of
thermodynamics might be used to illustrate the process of creative
thinking takes account of this notion that generating metaphysical energy
in the form of new knowledge follows, a process which is effectively the
opposite to that of generating physical energy.
In the case of coal, some input of heat, usually a flame applied to some
form of kindling is necessary to raise the energy level over the hump in
figure 3a below to the point where combustion is self-sustaining. The coal
then releases energy that can be used to perform work and in the
process is broken down into waste products which have some residual
potential energy left in them, even though this would be very hard to


Figure 3a: The Potential energy in coal


The Spark: Energy needed for Ignition

Potential energy in coal**********************************

Energy released,
Entropy (Disorder)
Increased -Destruction
******************************* Residual Potential energy in waste products

When knowledge energy" is used to perform work we learn from the

experience and our potential knowledge energy is thus not decreased but
increased. However, as with physical combustion something is needed to
"spark off" the flow of ideas. Sometimes we can find that spark within us,
but more often the stimulus is something external that we perceive
through one of our senses.
Figure 3b: The Potential Power of Knowledge

Total Power of teams shared knowledge

Power of knowledgesharing, Negative Entropy
- Construction

Total Power of teams individual knowledge

The Spark;


6.9 Interaction = Ignition

In the physical world of combustion if the spark is to cause ignition and if
combustion is to be sustained then we need oxygen. In the metaphysical
world of knowledge energy, interaction is the oxygen of ideas.
The interactions through which we use knowledge productively and
creatively tend to fall into one of the three categories below.
1. Reflective Contemplation
A contemplative individual seeks to interact with their own tacit
knowledge, conciously sifting, sorting, analysing and reprocessing in
search of new insights or solutions. We do this a lot,sometimes to good
effect but we are working within the confines of our existing data set. We
are also likely to follow primarily the well-trodden footpaths created by our
established thought patterns. The mental process of sifting,sorting and
re-organising information and ideas is something that we usually do
pretty much on mental autopilot, rather like changing gears in a car.
Indeed this is thought to be we do in our dreams.
Reflective contemplation, particularly if conducted systematically is
perhaps the most common means of continuously improving our
contribution to the present imperative. What went well? What could have
gone better? How would I do things differently next time? These are
powerful questions and rather than assuming that expriential learning just
happens we might sometimes benefit from taking time to go through the


process more conciously so that we aim pick up on all learning points

rather than those which immediately strike us.
Reflective contemplation thus tends to be directed more toward the
process of generating heat to drive the present imperative of pursuing
excellence in what we do now. We may sometimes have a eureka
moment. We may also sometimes, when concentrating on an important
and pressing problem, not follow-up a little glimmer of enlightenment that
if appropriately cultivated, could yield significant future benefits. These
we can file away with the rest of our tacit knowledge and hopefully recall
and develop the potentially bright idea in future. An alternative with the
tools available to us today might be to make brief entry in our own private
ideas wiki come back to it when time permits.
2. Insight Stimulation
Even when apparently lost within our own thoughts, we are likely to be
engaged in an interaction of our own internal tacit knowledge with the
knowledge of others that has been made explicit to us, either visuall,
audibly or both.
Researching internal and external knowledge bases can often help shed
more light on problems and opportunities than is possible through
reliance on re-processing our existing tacit knowledge.
The ratio of heat to light when interacting with the explicit knowledge of
others, either within our own organisation's knowledge management


system or when researching external sources will depend on the purpose

of our inquiry. However if we are seeking information to support our
pursuit of the present imperative we may still encounter knowledge of
more strategic significance or vice versa. In such circumstances the
knowledge of less immediate relevance is unlikely to be studied
thoroughly if we rely on memory alone for future search and retrieval we
may not find it when we need it.
3. Collective Inspiration
While we may sometimes find inspiration without the need for direct
interaction with others, the premise that knowledge grows through
sharing was proposed at the beginning of this chapter. In their seminal
book The Knowledge creating Company Nonaka and Tageuchi (1995),
describe how the articulation of tacit knowledge by one member of a
group can spark off a series of responses from others throughwhich
useful new ideas and insights can emerge.


Figure 4: The Cycle of Ideas

Adapted from Nonaka and Tageuchi (1995)

Matches or

One member shares


some of their tacit

between different sets

knowledge with the

of tacit knowledge

group, by making it

are analysed

explicit audibly, visibly

or both

Group members
compare this input with
own tacit knowledge
/frames of reference

Human beings are hard-wired to scan their environment, spot the

unexpected, and process tiny fragments of information. A hunter-gather
out in the dark will notice any tiny speck of reflected moonlight, and
based on a very limited sensory stimulus need to assess whether the tiny
speck in question is reflected from a drop of dew on a leaf or the eyeball
of a possible predator.


We have the ability to process information quickly and to scan the

incoming data for that which is unfamiliar , to spot slight mismatches in
circumstances where a large volume of information is being presented
when almost all of it is consistent with that in our current frames of
reference. This is a powerful tool that serves us well in the handling of
complex knowledge within our working lives. It is what makes that one
slightly odd number stand out from within page after page of
spreadsheets that we are trying to go through in less time than we really
When handling more qualitative information related to well rehearsed
ideas about the best way of doing things about how understanding of the
organisational environment in which we operate , reflecting on the needs
of stakeholders and how best to service them. We may encounter some
grey areas. Sometimes we devote many hours of reflective
contemplation to turning shades of grey into black-and-white. In these
circumstances that one piece of dissonant information that doesn't fit the
pattern can easily be passed over as incorrect or irrelevant rather than
being seized upon and carefully analysed.
Collective inspiration can be used to generate either the heat that
supports and sustains our current activities at maximum efficiency or the
creative light we need to guide us into less familiar territory.
1. Carrying the torch
In situations such as those described by Nonaka and Tageuchi (ibid)
where people bounce ideas off each other for the purpose of creating a

kind of new knowledge and ideas that might lead the organisation into
new territory; new activities, new areas of operation, new products or
services it is important to cultivate the unorthodox and to have as much
diversity of perspective within the group as is possible .
This might involve bringing in people from outside the team whose
change agenda may be being pursued . In a multidisciplinary group of
those making a contribution outside their normal area of expertise might
proffer an idea that the expert in that particular discipline might, in other
circumstances, too easily dismiss as nave or "off the wall". It is important
to capture every minor unorthodoxy as quickly as possible without
interrupting the flow of ideas and then later give each one more serious
consideration than some might seem to merit when first mooted. Taking
the group outside its normal environment and bringing in external
facilitation and/or external expertise with a different perspective may also
be helpful.
a) Fuelling the boiler
Directing the power of collective inspiration toward doing what we do only
better involves harnessing the reflective capabilities of the group as a
whole. A common focus for this type of activity is the capturing of lessons
learned by following processes typical of those initiated and implemented
by the U.S. Army.
One such process is conduct of an "after action review in the immediate
aftermath of an important event triggered by questions along the lines of :

What went well?

What was less successful?

What would we do different next time?

Similarly framed questions can be used to review specific activities at

periodic intervals or as a means of de-briefing an individual or team to
which a specific task or project has been assigned.
Following such a process a much less structured session along the lines
of i) above focusing on specific issues or a wider agenda.

6.10 Ad-Hoc Interactions

Some of the most powerful manifestations of the cycle of ideas occurs
through serendipity, often in a work-related context but outside the formal
structure of an organised meeting. The archetypal "meeting at the
watercooler" is one example.
This author and a friend and former colleague used to joke about how our
best ideas originated at Brussels airport. Over a beer while waiting for
planes to different destinations we were relaxing but still tuned into work
mode. While the meeting or event we had attended provided some
context as an initial stimulus to discussion, it did not dictate the agenda of
the dialogue which could flow freely as one line of thought led to another.
When new perspectives are called for and some kind of think tank is
convened to address it then creating the loose structure and informal
atmosphere akin to the watercooler on the airport lounge may be helpful.

However, whatever the meeting or conversation innovative thinking is a

tender flower that is easily crushed and some of the inhibiting factors are
examined below.
6.11 Stoking the Fire and Fanning the Flames
Although, when adding more information to the furnace of ideas we are
accumulating more fuel for the future rather than using up our supply of
knowledge, nevertheless, some inspirational pumping on the bellows of
motivation may be needed from time to time in order to re-kindle fierce
flames from dying embers. Similarly, discouragement can prove to be an
extremely powerful fire extinguisher. Although the relationship between
little acorns and tall oaks may have become something of a clich the full
poetic verse from which it is extracted says a lot about the vulnerability of
original thinking.
You d scarce expect one of my age
To speak in public on the stage;
And if I chance to fall below
Demosthenes or Cicero,
Dont view me with a critics eye,
But pass my imperfections by.
Large streams from little fountains flow,
Tall oaks from little acorns grow.
Lines written for a School Declamation.


[David Everett (1769-1813) author of the above, later became a

newspaper editor and proprietor,( the Boston Patriot) and a poet.
Everetts full quotatation says much about the dynamic of ideas
exchange and the inhibitors that can sometimes limit the creative
potential inherent in the sharing of knowledge and the learning process
that can emanate from such sharing. In particular, it articulates the
reticence that anyone may feel when airing ideas to others, particularly
those who are knowledgeable about the topic being aired.
The knowledge we are all most comfortable about articulating is that
which is most familiar, which tends to be that which we use most often,
and relates to our own special niche within the organisation. This
represents our own distinctive contribution to the knowledge ecosystem
and the tacit knowledge we possess grows through experiential learning.
Since most of our working life is, quite rightly devoted to the present
imperative of doing what we are supposed to be doing to the best of our
ability this perfectly appropriate.
However, this personal tacit knowledge is our baby and in dialogue with
colleagues we are keen demonstrate that our parenting skills are beyond
reproach. This is especially true if we interpret any comment as even
hinting at the possibility of imperfection, even if no such slight were
intended. People who take pride in their personal distinctive competence
will be high performers but the only problem with this positive trait may be
that it is linked to the orthodoxy of what we do. While we might not
consciously perceive the contributions of others during dialogue related

to our own area of authority or expertise as overtly threatening, we may,

nevertheless, suppress some potentially useful thinking by seeing it as
our natural role to lead this particular discussion thread.
In formal learning situations, and when drawing on the expertise of a
mentor at the workplace we are used to tapping into the knowledge of
what Vygotski (1978 ) refers to as the "wiser other". When using the
cycle of ideas to stimulate creative thinking the role of "wiser other" flies
around the room like a demented bee zooming from flower to flower. The
woman from IT or the guy from accounts may pick up a discussion thread
about marketing and make an unorthodox contribution that no marketer
would have made, but one which might lead in a fruitful direction.
Whether in day-to-day conversation or in specifically convened meetings
creating an atmosphere where no one worries about the possibility of
making a nave comment, and where the germs of an idea are followed
up, can help to ensure that large streams do sometimes from little
fountains flow.

6.12 Capacity Building

Our focus above has been on people and the way they utilise knowledge.
While clearly the explicit knowledge stored in an organisational
knowledge management system, and in the global knowledge base
accessible through the Internet, will play a vital part part empowering in
powering 21st-century organisations nonetheless it is the tacit knowledge


of humans that still dictates the way in which the total knowledge
resource available is utilised.
Our focus thus far has also been on the informal and collaborative
dimensions of learning, that can flourish in a knowledge ecosystem,
aiming to illustrate how within a 21st-century learning organisation, the
whole company is greater than the sum of its parts.
However, this emphasis should not be taken as an indication that the
professional development of each of those individuals contributors to the
continuous development of the ecosystem's accumulating knowledge
through appropriate inputs of formal learning is not to be valued.
The "cycle of ideas" [Figure 4], illustrates that, however formidable the
explicit knowledge base accessible may be, it is the interaction of existing
tacit knowledge with this data within the human mind that enables it to be
processed. The ability to understand, sift, analyse, interpret, learn and
develop new insights from such an interaction is therefore a function of
the currency of the tacit knowledge of each individual concerned.
However, that is not to say that traditional approaches to work-related
formal learning should be immune from some reappraisal as to their
Traditionally, the formal learning provided in schools and universities has
been defined by the specification of inputs; identifying in some detail
appropriate topics for inclusion within the curriculum, the learning content
that enables each topic to be addressed and indicators of the depth and

breadth of coverage. This model still has much to commend it as a

means of building the capability of those preparing for entry to the world
of work, but its extrapolation to provide the basis for on-going workrelated learning is more questionable. The lifelong development of highly
skilled professionals within a knowledge ecosystem may require different
approach. The mix of informal learning experiences in such an
environment is so eclectic that a high degree of personalisation of
learning is required even in circumstances where a number of individuals
require development and/or updating to some relatively common level of
E-learning has gone some way to address the issue through the breaking
down of content into relatively small "learning objects" that can be
selected for relevance at an individual level.
However, a group of expert e-learning professionals on a UK
government sponsored observatory mission to the United States, (DTI,
2006) which visited some of the most knowledge intensive leading-edge
organisation's in that country was tasked with looking "beyond
e-learning". The need for "just in time" learning was still present.
However, employers keen to develop the knowledge base of the
organisation strategically, and anxious to ensure that the investment was
well-targeted and effective, sought to define learning not by inputs but by
outputs. Furthermore the desired learning outcomes were specified, not
in terms of the knowledge to be acquired, but in terms of the
performance attainment indicated by the practical application of
knowledge. This attainment rather than the means of achieving it, was

what they wished to specify and a means of assessing how far the
intended outcome had been achieved was also desired.
Pressure from employers for the improved effectiveness of formal
learning inputs through their closer integration with the practical
application of acquired knowledge is not new. In research conducted on
behalf of the UK Professional Associations Research Network Phillips et
al. (2004) found that employers were dissatisfied with "training" provision
defined by learning inputs and often delivered away from the workplace
to a sometimes quite diverse group of individuals assumed to have
learning needs substantially in common.
Employees, on the other hand were relatively satisfied with such
provision and felt that some positive impact on performance would be
likely to be accrued over a period of time. However such employees
found it difficult to identify examples of such performance improvement or
evidence to support such a claim.
There may, of course, sometimes be a very good case for increasing the
domain knowledge of an individual even if there is no obvious and
immediate application of the learning. However, it is perhaps inadvisable
for this to be the default mechanism and, in most instances purposeful
learning can be directled toward and integrated with the application of the
new knowledge acquired.
The definition of that have learning outcomes with a performance
improvements aim is likely to be an important element of Personal

Development Planning ( PDP) undertaken at a time of periodic

performance reviews. At a more tactical level, learning outcomes linked
to current problems and opportunities can also be defined. The the route
taken to achieve the learning outcome they then not need to be tightly
prescribed but could include elements of formal and informal learning
relevant to individual concerned and the task in question.
Organisations face both the challenge of the present imperative of
maximising efficiency and continuously improving performance plus the
future imperative of identifying and addressing the need to do different
things, or at least to do current things differently. Learning goals can be
focused on just these issues, in addition to identifying problems and
opportunities that can stretch a person by pushing them outside their
normal daily routine. Similarly mentoring an individual to perform tasks
that would normally be handled by someone with greater responsibility
enables that individual to grow.
Reflective contemplation was identified above as one of the means of
igniting the furnace within which new knowledge is forged. Reflection
within a group is also one of the ways of capturing lessons learned.
Reflective accounts within an e-portfolio therefore both assist the process
of applying new learning and provide evidence of this having happened.
Some outputs from this reflective process may also be worth sharing
beyond the portfolio as a contribution to a blog or wiki.
Organisations do not just recruit graduate and postgraduate level
employees in order to benefit from their domain knowledge. They also

value the metacompetences that such individuals posess; autonomous

learning skills, the ability to interrogate a knowledge base and sift for
relevance, analytical reflective and problem-solving skills. The learning
tasks with which individuals are challenged within a knowledge
ecosystem should exercise those skills with all the intensity of a top
athletes physical training regime.
Some universities are seeking to make an ongoing contribution to the
development of such metacompetences by devising programs for the
support and accreditation of work-based learning. These entail
assessment of new knowledge in the context of the evidence of
excellence in professional practice that a lifelong learner within a
knowledge ecosystem should be able to demonstrate see eg. Young and
Garnett (eds, 2007)

6.13 Maybe you should get out more; The big wide world of
knowledge sharing
The analogy between an organism and an organisation culled from early
systems thinking has become absorbed into management orthodoxy to
the point where terminology such as "corporate memory" has become
commonplace. We tend to assume that our organisation must function as
an open system because it's transactions with the environment within
which it operates are the central purpose of its existence. Knowledge
intensive organisations need powerful knowledge management systems
if, in terms of the organism metaphor they are to be compared to a
sentient being rather than an amoeba. However the sheer power of the

corporate intellect can easily mean that, in ideas terms, they are
operating much more like a closed system re-organising and
reprocessing the body of knowledge within the organisational rather than
interacting effectively with the body of knowledge in the wider
environment beyond it.
Chesbrough (2004) has suggested that organisations should enter an era
of "Open Innovation". He draws attention to examples from recent
history of how big companies with impressive investment in R&D have
been unable to outperform agile competitors who are far less well
The examples chosen suggest that the element of self-sufficiency which
impressive and well managed knowledge systems plus internal expertise
and knowledge generation capacity could, have its downside.
Organisational introspection and a tendency towards becoming
something of a closed system in terms of ideas and innovation is that
The model of the knowledge ecosystem as illustrated in figure 1 above
indicates that a learning organisation will have semi-permeable
boundary layers. There are two reasons for this. The first is that a
substantial proportion of the knowledge circulating within the organisation
is likely to form part of the intellectual property that defines competitive
advantage and is therefore consciously retained internally rather than
shared with its environment. A second reason lies in the sheer volume of
information processed within a knowledge intensive organisation. If we

compare our organisation, not just to any biological organism, but to a

human being then we might characterise it as being somewhat too
introspective, not as some sort of personality flaw but as a natural
consequence of the intellectual work performed within it. While some
members of the organisation may, by virtue of their job function operate
from the boundary layer in interaction with external stakeholders in the
wider world many others are much more internalised in their duties.
Hakansson and Snehota (2006) provide a forceful reminder that No
business is an island they argue that effective networking within but also,
importantly, beyond organisational boundaries should be fundamental to
strategic planning.
Thus, in seeking to stimulate learning at the individual and team level it
may be important to keep an eye on the extent to which the learning
process moves beyond the boundary of the organisation through
engagement with external sources of explicit knowledge and through
participation in communities of practice external events and conferences;
always, of course with some subsequent reflective component that
provides evidence of the benefit of such interactions that can be shared
with other. Once again, e-portfolios could provide a personal record of
such beneficial interaction while blogs and wiki's are among the devices
which enable learning outcomes to be shared with colleagues quickly and


6.14 Conclusion
This conclusion begins with a statement of the obvious; that interaction
with sources of knowledge new to an individual are a source of fresh
ideas. However what is less obvious is that interpersonal interaction with
the tacit knowledge of individuals who have different outlooks and
perspectives is particularly powerful. Rather than relying on some of the
less structured dialogues regarding problems, opportunities and ways
ahead that might occur by serendipity, leaders within organisations
should consider regularly creating such situations where groups can
interact and look beyond today's first priority .
In the early days of the first Industrial Revolution each factory had its own
powerhouse perhaps a water wheel or maybe a steam engine. In the
current Industrial Revolution the powerhouse of ideas -- the innovation
engine room -- does not exist as such a clearly located entity. Even
where there may be a strong central R&D team, or a high level strategic
planning group actively pursuing new ideas the innovation engine room is
inevitably dispersed throughout the organisation. What is less inevitable
is the extent to which each of these components of the innovation engine
recognises that ;
"the raison d'tre of a firm is to continually create knowledge"
(Nonaka et al 2000b, p1)
Persons occupying "structural holes" (Burt 2004) ; those whose roles
interface with a variety of tasks and functions, and especially those who
interface with the external environment , are often best placed to be a

focus for new thinking. Such people in the course of their normal duties
interact directly and more frequently with people in a variety of roles and
functions and with different perspectives. Any team is likely to have
sufficient variation of outlook and diversity of tacit knowledge to be able
to function effectively as a think tank, and should from time to time be
tasked so to do. However, opportunities for those who do not occupy an
organisational structural hole to have the opportunity to share knowledge
and ideas within a more diverse group and to be exposed to thinking
external to the organisation should be cultivated.
In much the same way as small particles have a larger surface area than
an equivalent mass of larger particles, so small organisations have a
greater percentage of their employees at. or close to, the boundary layers
of the organisation and subject to that diversity of external thinking that
larger organisations may need to actively seek. While the harvesting of
external explicit knowledge is relatively easy, the stimulus of interacting
with the tacit knowledge of external experts should not be ignored.
All organisations, and perhaps particularly those who are rightly proud of
their internal R&D, their internal knowledge management excellence, and
their internal knowledge creation run the risk, despite the extent of their
transactions with the wider environment, of becoming relatively closed
systems in terms of new knowledge creation. While organisations will
have some ideas and intellectual property which they need to jealously
guard they also need to find opportunities to engage intellectually outside
the organisation. Open innovation may also, from time to time involve
actively seeking opportunities to import new technology or new thinking

from outside. Similarly, before abandoning new ideas apparently not

relevant to current core activities organisations should be open to the
possibility of developing such thinking to the point where marketable
intellectual property, or spin outs that could realise new market
opportunities may become a realistic option.
To finish where we began, coal does not ignite of its own volition but
needs a small flame and some kindling. In order to do what we do well on
a daily basis todays organisations may rely mostly on central heating,
but to cultivate new thinking we may need to bring in a metaphorical
bucket of coal from time to time, or maybe get a few of us out into the
woods and light a campfire.
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York: John Wiley & Sons,
Kelleher M., A. Haldane & E. Kruizinga (Eds) (2004)
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Chapter 7
Embracing opposites Enriching learning by
acknowledging and resolving tensions between
apparently conflicting business values

Prof. Dr. Jane McKenzie & Dr. Christine Van Winkelen

The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing
ideas in the mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function
F Scott Fitzgerald.

7.1 Introduction
Learning is a necessary process for businesses seeking to adapt and
thrive in changing conditions. Hampden Turner [1] argues that learning
supports adaptation when it produces a more inclusive response to the
world. For enterprises, an inclusive response is likely to be a solution that
comprehensively addresses the needs and claims of different groups
both inside and outside the organisation. No easy task, when powerful
stakeholder groups value different aspects of organizational activity.
Customers, employees, suppliers, shareholders, the local community, all
have different requirements. Their conflicting priorities create
contradictory pulls upon available time, energy and resources.
Unfortunately in business and society, when individuals and communities

attribute importance to a need, they embrace it as a preference:

something valued in this way becomes a force that shapes and
constrains personal orientation. Seemingly opposing priorities produce
tensions and dilemmas2 during interaction, which can be wasteful and
destructive or creative depending on how they are handled. Through a
carefully designed process it is possible defuse tension and reconcile
apparently contradictory requirements into creative solutions.
Management research suggests [2] there are three relevant areas of
tension: paradoxes of organizing, belonging and learning. Whichever
one we are dealing with, the acceptance of an outcome depends on
whether individual managers make choices that only satisfy limited
interests, or devise more inclusive solutions that satisfy a more diverse
constituency, so that learning and belonging support rather than work
against the process of organizing. In this chapter we will explore these
three areas of conflicting choices, consider the defensive routes that
people use to avoid the tensions and then suggest a facilitated process
that can be used to defuse resistance to and build acceptance of learning
and change.

A dilemmas is an unresolved difference between opposite values. The word dilemma is derived

from the Greek meaning two propositions. In this chapter we use the term interchangeably with
that of paradox or tension.


7.2 Three kinds of conflicting choices

Lets start by considering why paradoxes of organizing, belonging and
learning are key categories of opposites.
Globalization and greater connectivity have increased the range of
choices associated with organizing [3]. The more alternatives and the
more organisations shaping options, the more uncertain and ambiguous
business conditions are. Should decisions be made centrally or locally?
Should the organisation partner internationally or have the capacity to act
independently? Should it employ experts or outsource the need? Should
the focus of attention be efficiency or innovation, discipline or creativity?
Do customers want low cost or high quality? Each alternative has its pros
and cons, so it will attract supporters based either on their desire to
harvest the benefits of a particular option or avoid the downside of its
opposite [4]. Yet management choices are not made in isolation. They
both impact, on and are simultaneously impacted by, the values and
choices of other businesses in the industry and by the interests of
influential groups inside the business. [5]. To manage this dynamic of
more alternatives and greater interdependency, we argue that effective
decision making depends on managers with enough mental complexity to
make sense in uncertainty and handle the ambiguity surrounding
decisions that are unavoidably based on assumptions when
uncontroversial fact is limited [6]. As many have pointed out, ultimately to
organize is to manage paradox. An organization is the sum of all


decisions taken in the face of the dilemmas as diversity impinges. To do

it well requires embracing opposites.

To further complicate the situation, what is valued singularly and
communally may differ, but both are simultaneously important. The most
obvious example being an individuals desire to be true to their own
beliefs, and to honour the responsibilities and duties as members of
various collectives. For example the organizational profit motive may
come in conflict with an individuals view of what is right. Any change
process creates all sorts of demands when the interests of the individual
who has loyalties to himself, his family and society do not fit with the
objectives of the collective to which he or she belongs. The most difficult
choices arise when the integrity of the individual and their personal
values come into conflict with the way the organisation prioritises its
responsibilities to different external stakeholders, a typical example
being, shareholders versus social responsibilities. In such instances
individuals are faced with dilemmas created by their conflicting loyalties
to themselves and various communities. Lewis calls the tensions created
when individual identity needs conflict with collective expectations
paradoxes of belonging [2].

Hampden Turner [1] suggests that business value creation lies in the
capacity to acknowledge dilemmas and combine the constructive

priorities of multiple individuals and stakeholder groups into something

more rich and rewarding. He contends that this is learning - a journey
towards an ever richer synthesis of values. Unfortunately, learning
means leaving the security of the known, the comfortable retreat of
expertise on which success was founded and venturing out into the
uncertainty and risk of apparent ignorance in unknown domains [7]. Most
individuals in an organisational setting are conditioned to be
conservative. Their intuitive reaction to such conflicting demands is to
prioritise the emotionally more comfortable aspect of the dilemma over
the other, even though objectively they may recognise the value of
change. In addition, under pressure of market forces, rapid sense making
often wins out over learning [8]. Learning and sense making are
interdependent and complementary mental processes, with different
goals and outcomes. Even when they try to rely on apparently objective
mechanisms through the use of familiar frameworks, analytical models,
explicit cultural paradigms and philosophies, there is a risk that the new
and the unusual are forced to comply with the dominant logic [9, 10].
Sense making then becomes a process of making increasingly fine
distinctions that entrench an individual or an organisation into a static
position and restrict novel learning opportunities. Further
the rush to the quick-fix or expedient sense making is the consequence
not only of the lack of variety or range of managerial sense making
frameworks but also of the inability of unwillingness to change
frameworks through the process of reflection and critical enquiry [8]


What a person deems important will be conditioned by their experience and

their evolved worldview. So for example in the learning cycle, there are four
alternative ways to learn, forming two essential paradoxes. One centres on
what Kolb calls transforming experience [11] building perceptions of
discrete individual experiences into abstract concepts of how things work
generally and using those concepts to guide future action. The other is
about assessing and refining ones sense of what experience to retain and
what to give up, through both practice and reflection on their success or
failure. In both cases one side of the paradox is affective and the other
cognitive. Each is mutually complementary. Experience and practice are
sensory activities; reflection and conceptualisation are cognitive. Kolb
suggests that the combination of all four provides a richer more rounded
approach to learning, yet individuals often rely on parts of the cycle only. In
other words they treat opposites as preferences, and in so doing they
become either/or alternatives, with a default towards the more familiar,
easier more comfortable or acceptable option.
Possible responses
An either/or choice is a simplistic response to most dilemmas. A
somewhat more open-minded response to a paradox is to acknowledge
both sides of the tension, but avoid the discomfort of dealing with it head
on, by separating the demands and dealing with them at different times
or in different physical spaces [12]. So for example over time
organisations go through cycles of centralising and decentralising
decision-making in various areas, depending on whether they are
currently focusing on streamlining and efficiency or localising and

responsiveness. In time, if employees tolerate the constant upheaval and

stay, they gradually learn from each experience, but the organisation
never simultaneously gets the full benefits of a centrally decentralised
operation [13]. Yet, it is possible to find inclusive solutions that reap the
rewards of both control and responsiveness, so for example, purchasing
might use a centralised procurement system, run by corporate
purchasing experts who negotiate standard contracts with key suppliers
for cross organisational discount, but have local buyers who understand
the specific needs of the market, and can work within the broader
centralised framework to negotiate and refine specifications to meet
customer specifications, where the value to be gained from greater
responsiveness is greater than the saving from centralised buying power
[13]. This is a both/and solution, rather than an either/or choice.
In terms of physical separation, individuals may find it easier to reflect
and experiment in different places, restricting reflection to quiet spaces
and undisturbed locations. With practice, people can reflect on sensory
input while they are actually testing out ideas, and refine their ideas, thus
shortening the cycle time from concept to testing to action to reflection,
making it virtually simultaneous.
Appropriately acknowledged and embraced, the dissonance between
opposites can provide a stimulus to creativity. If we can use paradox as a
tool to help people challenge assumptions, break out of a constrained or
comfortable mindsets and become more open and progressive in their
approach to knowing, organizing and belonging (sometimes called
identity or being [14, 15]) we are in a better position to drive growth,

innovation and enterprise. We argue that a decision making process

framed to deliberately make explicit the diversity of interpretations
represented in a group and weigh the pros and cons of their conflicting
interests, is one way to harness opposites to produce more dynamic and
adaptive business strategies.
Research suggests that generally it is more profitable to build the tension
into the system and find a way to fulfil the combined values of many
stakeholder groups by simultaneously reconciling their cognitive and
affective perceptions [16, 17]. We reasoned therefore that a facilitated
group process designed to encourage participants to go beyond their
current world view, recognise the benefits of diversity and develop an
openness to the notion of embracing opposites as complementary
opportunities, should facilitate faster learning, less resistance to change,
and greater organisational development.
One might argue that this is similar to developing triple loop learning
capability [18, 19]. Triple loop learning occurs when there is a
perspective transformation involving a change in the whole assumptive
frame of reference within which our habits of expectation have been
formed [19]. Assumptive frames of references are generally a nested set
of dilemmas resolved to the satisfaction of the individual. Recognising
and transcending the dissonance between such derived worldviews
requires unpicking and resolving an overlapping tapestry of dilemmas,
which is probably why triple loop learning is so hard to achieve.


In this chapter, we describe the process we developed and tested as part

of an interactive action research project with a group of Knowledge
Management (KM) practitioners, who are members of the Henley KM
Forum. Although their initial interest was to encourage acceptance of
organisational change and improve organisational capacity to innovate
[20] by reducing resistance to knowledge based initiatives, together we
quickly recognised that all learning starts in the minds of individuals.
Consequently, we reasoned that the most useful focus for our research
was to explore how individuals learn to mentally embrace opposites, and
integrate them into a more complex view of the world.

7.3 The constraints on embracing opposites

For any process to be successful, it is important that it addresses the
different forms of defensive routines [6] that individuals naturally employ
in response to a mental conflict [21]. Lewis [2] usefully mapped some of
these against the three different types of business dilemma, as shown in
Table 1. We have further expanded her arguments. The top row of the
table outlines the essential problem in each kind of conflict. The lower
rows show how defensive routines manifest themselves in response.


Defining the




Learning in itself is an
inherently paradoxical
process. Learning requires
the resolution of conflicts
between dialectically
opposed modes of
adaptation to the world.
Conflict, differences and
disagreement are what
drive the learning process.

The goal of organizing may

be to produce habits,
routines and norms that aid
the reduction of equivocality
and promote stability and
predictability; however
expecting stability, managers
actually find themselves with
contexts that reflect
ambiguity, intimacy, high
personal discretion, close
proximity and small
collectives. As managers
realise these theory-practice
disconnects, they become
more reliant on subjective
sense-making. [22]

When the fundamental tension

between being loyal to oneself and
belonging to a group creates

When the fundamental

tension between the old
and the new, the
apparently simple and the
unpredictably complex
creates discomfort.

When the fundamental

tension between control and
flexibility creates

People draw on the various Defensive Routines outlined below


They may avoid voicing

their fears about change or
making their frustrations
explicit, focusing instead on
the rational benefits of new

One group may present the

most acceptable aspect of a
solution to those who need to
implement it for example
playing up empowerment as
the benefit of TQM, whilst
downplaying the control
aspect, or espousing
involvement whilst limiting
someones capacity to act.

Individuals may sacrifice their own

integrity in the service of the group


They may project blame on

groups that they do not
belong to e.g. managers
vs workers , R&D staff vs
operations staff - rather
than trying to learn how
others perceive the
situation and finding
common ground.

They attribute persistent

organisational failure to
perform to circumstances
beyond the organisations
control, and generally ignore
the signals for change.

If the tension is felt to affect group

performance, rather than deal with
the dilemma, groups may project
the frustrations onto a single
scapegoat, paralysing the group,
but making the majority feel
comfortable that they are being true
to their individual desire to perform






They may regress to what

worked before, attributing
success to current
practices and expertise,
and failure to things
beyond their control.

Organisations may reenforce the tendency to cling

to capabilities that brought
success, through processes
that incentivise and reward
historical performance


They may overreact to the

most feared element of two
complementary goals. So if
quality requires both
adherence to standards and
a flexible response to the
customer, people who fear
flexibility may become rigid in
their interpretation of rules,
whereas those who fear
regulation may respond by
trying to buck the system.


They may exaggerate the

difference between alternative
opinions then classify one set of
differences negatively. This
produces a split in previously
coherent groups, creating divisive
tribal distinctions. Such
fragmentation helps individuals
retain a sense of belonging but
prevents everyone from dealing
with sensitive problems or flaw in
an idea or solution.


Rather than engage in heated

debate, people often agree quickly
to compromise, without fully
expressing their opinion. This
devalues the richness of diversity.

Table 1 Ways to avoid the discomfort when faced with dilemmas

Given that learning is the engine for change in the process of organizing
and belonging is the force for stability and continuity in organisations, any

process we develop to support decision making should be designed to

overcome the majority of these instinctive defences. However, it should
also encompass what Lewis identifies as the triggers that open peoples
mind to resolving the paradoxes. These are explained Table 2 below.



A crisis and shock that

unavoidably challenges the
accepted world view.

Focusing people on higher level

goals something they can commit
to that overrides the differences
that create the dilemma.

Focusing people on the rationale

for a task and the actions
required can help people stand
back from emotional resistance
and pay more attention to
cognitive aspects of a conflict that
can be resolved by dispassionate

Influential leaders who think

paradoxically and encourage
others examine and deal with
tensions rather than suppress

Irony and humour can defuse

tension and turn a forbidden topic
into acceptable issue that is ripe for

Power differences can be used to

re-enforce destructive tribalism
and fragmentation. Crises and
failures that destabilise power
positions often encourage groups
to listen to the views of others
more carefully.

A safe, forum for reflection,

experimentation and open
discussion legitimates learning.

Expanding the range of behaviours

and possible actions in response to
a situation makes choice more
palatable. For example leaders who
foster consistency, stability and
control as well as passion, courage
and wonder[2] demonstrate the
need for complex behaviours.

Explicitly valuing difference can

reduce the power differentials,
which wastefully support
unproductive tribalism.

Table 2 Factors which reduce tensions so that learning and belonging can support
effective organising.


We were concerned to develop and test a process that would firstly

encourage people with different priorities to accommodate the values of
others without being threatened by them to avoid conflicts of belonging,
and secondly to be open to reviewing the assumptive frame of reference
developed over years of experience, so as to feel more positive to
potential change initiatives. In the process we felt we would need to find
a non-threatening way to help individuals better understand the pros and
cons of opposing alternatives, acknowledge the benefits of embracing
different positions and together find mutually reinforcing solutions that
went beyond the limitations of historical preferences, and personal
An inclusive learning/ adaptation process should encourage the learner
to identify the positives and negatives of a proposition, and find a route to
wholeness3 that allows each person to comfortably internalise unfamiliar
but constructive values into their own mental model of the world and
release those that are unhelpful to their own or the community interests.
We decided that the starting point for our journey would be to explore the
foundations for difference collectively, and then use this to help
individuals expand their thinking to recognise and embrace more and

Philosophically it has been argued that nature is wholeness composed of

contradictions. The word integrity comes from the Latin integritas which means unity or
wholeness. In that sense individual wholeness or integrity could be interpreted as the
integration of all value propositions within a moral code or worldview.


more opposing demands. The aim would be to encourage a creative

response to dilemmas and to encourage reasoning in a more inclusive
and adaptive way. We expect that people who can comfortably
recognise and embrace opposites would be better able to adapt to the
complexity of knowledge activities in business management.
Dilemmas arise in one sense because language is dissociated from an
immediate sense of a specific situation, and reason from the apparent
wisdom of accumulated experience. Language is both the foundation of a
powerful human cognitive response to the world, and a complicating
factor, in that it allows us to name similarities and differences. Once
named, the distinctions become reified. In other words, in the process
using language to reflect on sensory input from daily activities, we
categorise similar events, experiences and perceptions under labels.
These labels ultimately become immutable objects, which have a distinct
reality of their own that is of our own construction. However we forget the
detail of how it was constructed, and the impressions that were its
foundations. So, for example, the concept of trust for any one individual
will be a distillation of the experiences and impressions that felt similar
compared to a distillation of experiences that generated opposite
feelings. In this way, for example personal experience leads people to
distinguish between love, its opposite hate, and the various stages of
emotional involvement between the two.
Thus, language allows us to simplify a raft of events and mentally distil
the essence of accumulated experience into useful short hand references
in our own minds. Unfortunately this complicates the process of co260

existing with others, because what might seem an immutable category of

valuable experience for one person has a different sense of
value/importance for another person. Reified values clash as dilemmas.
The frustration of dealing with incompatible labels creates interpersonal
tensions and undermines the perceived value of diversity by turning
difference into a rigid set of polarities rather than an inter-related
continuum of similar experiences categorised differently.
Given that language is the basis of cognition, we turned to a
consideration of the notion of cognitive complexity. Research in this area
suggested that over time and with education people could develop an
openness to paradoxical ideas through a staged process of reflection and
re-assessment of the frameworks of experience that coloured their world
view during the process of their mental development [24].

7.4 What is Cognitive Complexity?

Cognitive complexity is an old concept, which shapes the richness that
we perceive in the world and how comprehensively or not we respond to
that richness.


It can be described as the extent to which someone can mentally

a) Differentiate In other words the more dimensions4 on which a
person perceives environmental stimuli the richer their
foundation for thinking
b) Integrate the more complex the rules a person uses to
organize these differentiated dimensions, the more adaptive
their worldview is.
Kegan [24] defines different levels of capability in this mental process,
which he calls orders of consciousness. An order of consciousness is
based on some underpinning organizing structure. At each level of
consciousness, there are three areas of perception for which we need
mental organizing structures, which largely map onto the paradoxes of
learning, organizing and belonging. Our perception is attuned to
1. Knowledge (learning).
2. Interpersonal relationships (community and organizing).
3. Intra-personal understanding (Identity, being and belonging).

The word dimensions could be interpreted as nuances, subtleties,

senses, implications, or interpretations.


Kegan identifies five orders of consciousness, or stages of cognitive

complexity. These are summarised for reference in Tables 1 to 5 in
Appendix one. Each stage builds on the former because the individual
steadily learns to stand back from the subjective elements of experience
at the previous stage, reflect on them and turn them into conceptual
elements that can be properly tested, managed and taken responsibility
for. Gradually the mental organizing structures, which affect the way we
perceive and respond in each of the three areas above, become
increasingly more complex until they reach the ultimate stage of being
inherently paradoxical constantly relative and changing.

7.5 What difference does Cognitive Complexity make?

Generally, cognitively simple people perceive few dimensions and use a
fixed rule set to interpret them. Hence their view of the world is less rich
and potentially less adaptable because their foundation for absorptive
capacity is limited [25].
Research suggests that

Cognitive complexity is an important factor in top managers ability

to process complicated, novel, ambiguous or dynamic strategic
information in turbulent environments. [26]

Cognitively complex individuals handle complex job problems

more effectively and cope with promotion better. [27]

Cognitively complex sales people adopt a greater range of

adaptive selling strategies to suit different customers. [28]

In practice, cognitively complex people

Perceive many dimensions in a stimulus and interpret the

phenomena using more complex and adaptable
reasoning, [29, 30]

Search for more information, [23]

Sense and take notice of broader ranges of information, [31]

Spend longer interpreting information, [32]

Have a more accurate perception of the complexity of the

environment at intermediate information loads, [33]

Try more approaches to a problem, [34]

Possess more functional constructs in memory. [35]

All of these are desirable characteristics as people progress up the

organisation and have to deal with more complex nested dilemmas. If, as
has been argued, the organisational capacity to handle future uncertainty
requires a nimbleness that comes from developing multiple strategic
capabilities [36], it seems important to develop individuals who avoid over
simplified decisions and are able to make sense of multiple conflicting

7.6 Can we develop cognitive complexity?

The simple answer seems to be yes.
Kegans (1994) first three stages of cognitive complexity appear to
develop with age and general experience, and occur well before the time
that people become managers. However, progression beyond stage

three is not inevitable. Further stages seem to be related to ongoing

education combined with greater experience and further training.
Progression is to some extent limited by innate potential. But there is
evidence that this capacity can be developed.
Several studies suggest that education can raise a persons level of
cognitive complexity at least one stage. Longitudinal studies of students
in graduate programmes show that around 70% of men and women
between 20 and 50 years old, entering graduate programmes were at the
third order of consciousness or stage of cognitive complexity. By the end
of the programme 70% of the population studied were either almost at or
well into stage four thinking [22]. Although no comparative studies were
made of adults in similar groups who were not taking graduate
programmes, there are many studies of adults at various ages, and the
percentage at the fourth order of consciousness is consistently lower in
the less educated portion of the population.
There are studies to suggest that the introduction of dissent, or
disagreement into group processes can also help increase cognitive
complexity [37]. One study compared two formalised methods of
introducing disagreement - Dialectical Inquiry and Devils Advocacy.
Twenty five interacting groups engaged in a complex ill structured
planning task, were evaluated for initial stage of cognitive complexity,
given a structured method of working with difference and tensions and
then re-assessed. It was found that Devils Advocacy produced higher
quality assumptions but took longer to produce results than Dialectical
Inquiry. Groups with high cognitive complexity came up with more

recommendations. Devils Advocacy used in low cognitive complexity

groups produced lower quality recommendations and inequitable
participation in group work.
Given that there is a constant internal dialogue going on inside our
heads, re-interpreting our histories and beliefs, and that dialogue can be
hindered by the various defensive routines outlined in Table 1 we argue
that complex situations can only be addressed adequately through
collaborative conversations in which the real question and answer evolve,
as people develop and clarify each others thinking. In every day life,
interaction is a way humans make sense of the world, so a process to
develop cognitive complexity centred on group interaction would be more
inclusive than one to one dialogue. However coaching is now a popular
and perhaps more convenient route for many where time constraints are
A conversational approach was the foundation of Socratic teaching.
Socrates modus operandi was to enhance individuals critical thinking in
a similar way to Dialectical Inquiry. Through logical questioning, he
encouraged a person to face up to the apparent contradictions in their
thinking [38]. But making dilemmas explicit at a personal level and then
leaving individuals to mentally rise above the conflict and find a way to
reconcile the tension can and did generate resistance. In organisational
life, a group process that taps into the impact of ideas on belonging may
be more appropriate than the Socratic challenge to individual identity as a
route for learning.

The rest of this chapter outlines a carefully constructed process

developed to help groups mentally embrace opposites, so that individuals
can reach towards greater cognitive complexity in a non threatening
environment [24]. Although fifth order consciousness will always take
longer to develop, because people have to grasp whole interacting
systems of conflicting tensions, and find integrative solutions that
produce the communal benefits of co-operative value systems,
mechanisms are beginning to emerge to facilitate that process either in
conversations [39] or through social media.
In the process we used, we recognised that to encompass paradoxes of
learning, organizing and belonging we would have to:

Make explicit the interactive system of opposing categories that

individuals had successfully reconciled into their own systemic
view of our world.

Identify the risks and downsides of these views.

Acknowledge the upsides and potential benefits of opposing


Take action to pay more attention to the less well emphasised

areas, to compensate for previous overemphasis in one domain.

Focus on finding ways that the upsides and benefits of the

opposite view can alleviate the risks and downsides of a biased

To start with we evaluated the two alternative processes advocated in the

literature Devils Advocacy and Dialectical Inquiry. We rejected Devils
Advocacy because, whilst it helps people acknowledge conflicting

opinions, it seemed more likely to stimulate reaction formation by reenforcing peoples beliefs in each polarity [40-42]. Perhaps this
assumption will not hold in some cultures. However in Western business
cultures, we felt that people are conditioned to be less inclusive in our
thinking, much more individualistic, competitive, unique, and distinctive,
much less instinctively communal, co-operative, dual and integrative. So
the polarised response is more likely.

7.7 A facilitated process for dilemmas resolution

This section outlines the process we developed and tested through the
working group of KM practitioners. As we designed the process at each
stage we were trying to find ways to overcome the defensive routines
outlined in Table 1.


The first stage is to engage a representative group in conversation in a
workshop setting to address an apparently intractable business problem.
Key players would be asked to enact the problem through the use of
narrative, drama, humorous anecdotes. From these stories a facilitator
would distil out the essence of the opposite polarities expressing the
problem in words that resonate with peoples experience.
Hampden Turners method of graphically depicting the tension as axes
on a graph [1], as in Figure 1, captures the possibility that polarities may

not mutually exclusive alternatives, but could work in harmony together, if

the group can find a route to the top right hand corner of the graph. This
is the task for the workshop. Making the dilemma graphically explicit at
the outset also means repression is no longer a possible defensive
routine. Placing a tailored version of this graphic on the wall is a constant
reminder of the tension that needs to be addressed.
when Both pulls are
highly active



pull towards

Through process of



Conflicting pull towards one priority

Figure 1 a generic paradox framework


With a clear statement of the problem, participants would then split into
groups containing representatives of opposing points of views. The brief
is to spend equal amounts of time telling stories about the problem from
different points of view. The facilitator should take steps to encourage an

atmosphere that is relaxed, and non-confrontational and physical

conditions should be managed to create an informal ambience. Setting
some ground rules around the story telling process is important to keep
the atmosphere positive and constructive. Participants are expected to

Explain the foundations for the story in terms of the story-tellers

own positive intentions and actions.

Highlight the consequent challenge for them as an individual.

Explain what they felt as the problem unfolded.

Highlight two or more turning points, which, if they had panned out
differently, would have improved the outcome from their

The group should engage in at least two rounds of storytelling, with both
polarities being represented.
The purpose of this stage is to give participants some sense of the good
intentions of all stakeholders, and the potential benefits of their espoused
world view, in a neutral non-conflicting way. The content of these
experiences form the material for the reflection at the next stage.

Individuals consider their responses to the positives and

negatives of BOTH sides
The next stage is to provide each participant with four sets of coloured
post it notes. Ask them individually to imagine they are a decision maker.
Pick the side of the dilemma that they most empathise with, and the first

colour write down what they see as the positive benefits of prioritising
their preferred choice, using words that express the strength of their
feelings about the choice - for example like, loathe, enjoy, fear.
Encouraging the use of emotional language is designed to address the
ambivalence defence. Next they should identify on a second colour of
post it notes the potential negative consequences of their preferred
choice, using equally forceful language. This part of the process is
deliberately designed to encourage individuals to challenge their own
values and assumptions and think more paradoxically. Having completed
this exercise, each person should then identify the negative
consequences of their least preferred choice on another colour post-it
note, and finally the positive benefits of their least preferred choice on the
fourth colour.
The ordering of attention on the positives and negatives of each side of
the dilemma is deliberate. Firstly, it sandwiches negatives between
positives, thus trying to defuse reaction formation, by diverting attention
back to positives at the end. Secondly by choosing their preference first,
people are conditioned to think about BOTH pros and cons in a balanced
manner, before they consider the option to which they might react
negatively. Such balanced evaluation is designed to defuse the potential
for splitting. In practice people find it hard to identify the negatives of
their preferred option and the positives of their least preferred option. It is
worth acknowledging that fact.


Collect and name the negatives

The focus of activity now moves towards getting value from group
diversity. Each person is asked to post their perceived negatives of each
side of the dilemma onto separate flip charts at the back of the room. In
this way the whole group develops a more inclusive understanding of the
negative perceptions about BOTH sides of the dilemma. The content is
too detailed to handle conveniently so it becomes important to distil and
synthesise the diverse reflections into more manageable chunks.
Depending on the size of the workshop, participants may then divide into
smaller groups to review the total of everyones perceptions, or do it as a
whole workshop. Each group is asked to sum the negative
consequences of each side of the dilemma into a powerful word of
phrase that they are willing to share with others.

Recognise the vicious circle

At this point, the group is asked to recognise the impact of reaction
formation. If one group pushes hard for one side of the dilemma the other
will push back equally hard to avoid what they perceive to be the
negative consequences. The accumulation of both groups pushing
progressively harder to avoid negative consequences actually sets up a
vicious circle that makes the realisation of negative outcomes a self
fulfilling prophecy. Its probably easier to understand this with a real
example. In a situation where the essence of the dilemma is a tension
between control and flexibility, those who fear control may see the

downsides as lack of autonomy, rigidity, and bureaucracy. Those who

fear flexibility may be trying to avoid indecisiveness, fragmentation,
anarchy or chaos. The more people push to control chaos, the more
those who fear bureaucracy and rigidity will fight for their autonomy and
create anarchy, creating a vicious circle.
By recognising the combined impact of polarised responses in this way,
the group develops a sense of the dangers of allowing the dilemma to be
repressed, or regressing to what worked in the past. This also shows the
futility of scape-goating, and splitting, both of which further exacerbate
the problem. The identification of a vicious circle can be a paradoxical
shock or crisis point that everyone who has created it acknowledges and
owns. As such, it can trigger people to think more deeply about the
problem and be more open to learning (Table 2).

Reframe the negatives

One starting point would be to review the way the negatives might
complement one another and how they might be reframed. Hampden
Turner suggests looking at the polarities of a dilemma as a picture in a
frame or a text in a context. Then see what happens when you reverse
the text and the context. Building on the example above, let us consider
bureaucracy in the context of anarchy. When feelings about anarchy and
chaos frame ones perspective on bureaucracy, bureaucracy can seem to
be helpful means of controlling the worst excesses. Then if one reverses
the perspective and views anarchy and chaos through a mental frame of

rigid bureaucracy, it is possible to see that all fragmentation and

explosive activity has some boundaries, and can be more attractive as a

Collect and name the positives

Having people literally turn their backs on the negative forces
underpinning the dilemma, by leaving the flip charts and vicious circles at
the back of the room is pivotal point in the workshop. Bring people
forward to collect and name the positives, using the same process of
asking participants to share their post it notes of the benefits each side
on separate flip charts, find a single word or phrase that encapsulates the
contents of each flip chart, and share that with the whole workshop.

Recognise the virtuous circle

At this point, participants are asked to view the impact on performance of
treating positive aspects of the dilemma as a mutually re-enforcing
complements. So, for example, control enhances flexibility by providing
common standards that everyone can build from, a secure base camp
from which to venture forth into uncharted territory. Flexibility enhances
control by preventing entropy and obsolescence when situations change.
When both are embraced rather than treated as either/or alternatives
organizations can become communities where people can feel both safe
and comfortable in their belonging and can learn together.


Acknowledging the self re-enforcing benefits of each side of the dilemma

is one way to develop paradoxical leadership thinking.


Even though people may be enthused by the potential of mutually reenforcing activities, they still need to devise a workable solution to the
initial problem that will reframe the negatives, accentuate the positives
and satisfy multiple stakeholders views. If workshop participants are
representative of a broad constituency of stakeholder views, then the
process should have provided a sufficiently rich synthesis of the pros and
cons. However it takes some creativity to integrate them into a workable
solution. Metaphors and analogies can be a useful tool for identifying
similar situations in which the two aspects of a dilemma work in harmony
together. Using the metaphor as a trigger to examine organizing
practices can generate interesting new ideas. For example, a musical
metaphor might be one way of thinking about how control and
empowered flexibility can be orchestrated to ensure that everyone is
playing the same tune, that there is harmonious interpretation that uses
the responsiveness of each musicians expertise to enhance the end
product under the guidance of a conductor.


Metaphors are also a helpful way of communicating the thinking behind

the solution back into the organisation in a concise and accessible way.

Sometimes the solution may be an accommodation of the two forces that
make up the dilemma. Separating the opposing ideas in time and space
are the primary routes to accommodation. The implications of each and
when they are generally used are outlined in Table 3, which is developed
from the thinking of Scott Poole and Van de Ven [12].




People deal with each polarity at a

different time, oscillating back and
forward between the two. One value
can influence or create the
background against which the other
value operates

Introduce a new dimension that

encapsulates both criteria and
merge the conceptual value of
each polarity into a transcendent

For example, we tend in business to

oscillate between decentralisation
and centralisation of decision
making over time.

A centrally decentralised
organization gets the best of both
worlds. Central co-ordination and
guidance with local
responsiveness through

Transitions points between paying

attention to each polarity tend to be
difficult to understand or articulate.
For example, how do you justify the
loss of empowerment or the loss of
economies of scale?

There is a danger of
oversimplification in the synthesis,
and the loss of conflict can
produce stagnation.



Accept the contradiction and learn

to live with it. This requires erecting
Chinese walls to avoid diatribes
between theory owners. Low
ambiguity can lead to sloppy
analysis in each situation, for
example, in stable markets
organizations may have some
functions centralised e.g.
purchasing and strategy and some
functions localised e.g. sales and
marketing, and the arguments when
it comes to budgeting are simply
dealt with through one of debate
and decision.

This means assuming one polarity

of the paradox operates at a
different level to the other, or is
physically or socially separated.


Level of



It is important to clarify what

connects the two levels if this is
the method of resolution
For example an organization that
has central board and local board
needs to define the extent of
decision making capability at each
level. What limits the local board

Level of Interaction


Table 3- Accommodation and its relationship to ambiguity and the level of connection



Often the most desirable outcome is to find a solution that fully embraces
the two opposing needs, although this is not always possible. A synthesis
of opposites is desirable because it avoids the oversimplified and
polarized approaches that waste resources, creates splitting and
divisions undermining value creation in organisations.

7.8 Potential limitations of this approach

There are many learning and developmental benefits from this sort of
structured and explicit approach to resolving dilemmas, as well a greater
chance that co-created solutions will be more easily implementable.
However it is important to bear in mind the obvious limitations in following
such a formal structure.

To draw on the richness hidden in diversity, the workshop must

involve representatives of all the relevant stakeholders. This takes
up many man-hours, and causes problems finding a mutually
convenient date and time. We would expect the process to take a
minimum of four hours with a small group of up to eight people and
at least a day with a proportionately larger group.

The process requires skilled facilitators who are familiar with the
issues surrounding dilemmas and can confidently support
participants through the more challenging parts of the eleven step

Given the first two limitations, the process may better reserved for
addressing really intractable problems, even though it would be
valuable to cycle through this process repeatedly in order to
develop cognitive complexity and embed the learning into daily
practice. Over time this may happen, but not without significant

By taking participants through a structured cognitive process, we

prevent emergent opinion naturally coalescing around a quick
solution. If groups tend toward ambivalence as a defensive
routine then structure helps, but if they are naturally comfortable
enough with one another to engage in productive dialogue and
have a strong foundation of shared tacit knowledge, creative
solutions may emerge more quickly and effectively in less formal
surroundings [43].

The process does not, in itself, address the interaction between

nested dilemmas that is necessary at the fifth order of
consciousness. However the assumption is that training in the
process will develop the capacity to recognise and work with
dilemmas. Practice will help individuals to become more familiar
with embracing opposites and thus when they encounter the need
for triple loop learning they will be better prepared to face the

7.9 Conclusion
In this chapter we have argued that business performance comes from
finding solutions to dilemmas. To do that effectively we should be

developing individual managers capacity to deal with complexity and

diversity in a more inclusive way. This will enhance their learning and
reduce resistance to change. To this end we have outlined an eleven
step facilitated group process that is designed to overcome individual
defensive routines and develop the triggers that support the resolution of
the primary paradoxes associated with learning, organizing and
belonging. By explicitly valuing difference in a setting where power
differences are neutralised, we enable people to engage productively
with conflict. By creating a safe forum for reflection, experimentation and
open discussion, it is hoped that it will expand the range of alternative
behaviours and actions the organization can take in response to a

This research project was carried out by a Working Group of Knowledge
Managers from member organisations of the KM Forum based at the
Henley Business School of the University of Reading in the UK. Public
and private sector organisations were included. Particular thanks are
due to Richard Potter from QinetQ who was the practitioner champion of
the research.


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Appendix 1 Degrees of Cognitive Complexity or Orders of

Consciousness (A summary of Kegans ideas [24]).
In each of the following tables

Subject refers to the elements of knowing that are unconsciously

part of us that we have no control over and cannot reflect on.
Mentally they are absolute values, until they become the object of
our thinking and reasoning.

Object refers to factors that are perceived as relative, and which

individuals can be responsible for, control and reflect upon

As a person develops to the next order of consciousness, the

become responsible for and reflect upon the elements of knowing
that were the subject of the previous level, in relation to cognition,
relationships and identity.





mental structure

At birth, we have no ability to

differentiate. We cannot
even distinguish ourselves
from mother. All is Unity

Subjectively we respond to
perceptions, and impulses
with no relative reference
points. We learn to control
movements and sensations
through simple trial and

Singular /immediate

Age 0
to 6

Gradually we learn to

Recognise that objects

exist independent of our

Recognise people exist

independent of ourselves

Distinguish between
inner sensation and
external stimulation

We have no sense that our

perception of something
may not reflect its actual
properties. We cannot

Relate cause and effect

Recognise that others

have purposes
independent of our own
Take anothers point of

Distinguish impulses
and perceptions from
oneself or control them

Table 1a






mental structure

Mental development means

that the child learns to
recognise similarity and
difference to produce durable
and distinct categories of
experience. These enable
knowing to become more
concrete and logical, as we
learn that objects have
properties irrespective of our
own perceptions. New
perceptions can be classified
against previous categories.

Subjectively we focus on a)
concrete data and simple
cause and effect reasoning,
b) conceptualisation of
roles, and points of view,
responding in a simple tit
for tat manner to others
actions c) our own
perceived needs and

Durable Category

Age 6
to teens

In social relationships we
allow for others to have a
point of view, distinct from
our own, and fully
Our internal identity is
defined by enduring needs,
and beliefs rather than
impulses. Impulses are
regulated and can be
organized into categories
that produce results.
Delayed gratification
becomes a possibility.

We can be more objective

about a) our perceptions b)
our social perceptions and
c) our impulses.
As yet we still can not

Reason in the abstract

Value possibility above

concrete reality

Make generalizations

Discern patterns

Develop hypotheses
Construct ideals

Retain a personal point

of view AND
simultaneously accept

Feel obligations or
maintain relationships

Distinguish our needs

from ourselves as an
Identify inner

Table 1b





This stage of mental

development is about making
meaning by considering
connections and differences
between categories.

Subjectively we pay
attention to


To make sense of the world

we have to learn to
subordinate categories and
consider the impact of the
interaction between them.
This is the foundation for

Abstract concepts,
inferences ideals, values
and new propositions.
In relationships we accept
mutuality and are sensitive
to role difference. We
become self consciousness
Objectively we reflect on

Abstract reasoning,

Concrete data

Hypothetical and
deductive thinking,

Others points of view


Distinguishing what is
from what is not,

Seeing relationships as
simultaneously reciprocal

Our own enduring

needs and preferences
and try to take control
of these

Being aware of shared

feelings, agreements and
expectations that
override individual

As yet we cannot

Systematically identify
combinations of

Internalising anothers
point of view,

Isolate variables to test



Recognising emotions as
internally subjective
states rather than social

Construct a generalised
approach to regulate

Separate self from

ones relationships or
see self as author of
ones own inner life.

Table 1c


mental structure

Cross categorical
thinking and




mental structure

At the fourth level we learn

to recognise and respond
to multiple
interdependencies in a
system. This allows us to

The subject of attention

is Systems of mental

Complex system

As a result of
between 20
and 40

Develop ideologies by
weaving abstract
concepts into
generalisable theories.
Be innovative.

Collectives of people in
Personal value systems,
attitudes and behaviours
Objectively we review

Generate a personal

Develop expertise in an

Fit into regulating

encompassing multiple
roles and relationships.

Conceive of the
organization from
outside in, and
recognise our
relationship to the

Acknowledge our own

self authorship, identity
and autonomy, and not
be threatened by
difference in others.

Take the initiative.

Take responsibility for

what happens to us at
work, rather than
seeing others as the
cause of now and the

Single abstractions


Our own self


As yet we can not

Reflect on the way

contradiction and
difference can
extend our
knowledge and

Build relationships
between institutions
that have different
orientations or

Transform our
identity by
integrating the worth
of others into ones
world view

Table 1d





mental structure

This final order of

consciousness allows us
to accept and learn from
difference based on an
understanding of how to
resolve paradoxes in the
three different domains.
Of Knowledge
Relationships and

The subject of our

attention at this stage is
dialectic, dilemmas,
paradoxes and apparent
polarities within abstract
systems institutional
relationships self
regulatory values and

Trans systemic


At this level it becomes

possible to

Embrace opposite,
and use the inherent
tension, and
contradiction as a
stimulus to more
perspectives and

Synthesise complex
theories and reflect
critically on a
discipline from outside
the ideology

Build relationships
across value systems
for the benefit of both

Purposefully reevaluate ones own

identity in the light of
the identity of others

Table 1e


Complex adaptive

Chapter 8
The Design and Management of an Organisations
Lifelong Learning Curriculum5

Prof. Richard Dealtry

8.1 Introduction: Engendering work inspired learning process
design innovations
At the British Institute of Learning and Development (BILD) Connect
Event in November 2008, with a theme of Learning Design and Web 2
Applications, delegates recognised that there is still a need for new
professional organisations such as BILD to fill the emergent gaps in the
field of professional learning curriculum development. It also reawakened
the nature of the pioneering spirit that is essential for progress to be
made in giving life and energy to important innovations in learning
processes design and their management.
Key questions that arose from the discussions pinpointed some of the as
yet unresolved issues of choice between passive formally delivered

Adaptation of an article published in the Journal of Workplace Learning. Dealtry, R.

(2009) The Design and Management of an Organisations Lifelong Learning Curriculum.

Journal of Workplace Learning, Vol. 21, Issue 2, pp. 156 - 165


curriculum and work inspired dynamic curriculum; for example - What do

we need from our learning process designers? Is it realistic to look at elearning technology enabling influences in isolation? Does technology
solve some problems and create others in the development of learner?
Does the emphasis on tailoring e-learning technology to pedagogical
needs result in limiting e-learning innovation developments in work based
inspired lifelong learning?
In this chapter we review our organic process experience in managing
work inspired learning process design and outline a holistic contextual
approach in an attempt to reveal the full range of influences in successful
work based learning process design and practice.

8.2 The environment for curriculum design innovation

The BILD questions inspired us to look again at our work during the
1980s, the pre-dawn of e-learning, and revisit our design and process
newsletters and action learning programme case work archives. This
original action learning process work was inspired by colleagues who
became household names, for example, Reg Revans, Peter Honey, Alan
Mumford, Joanna Kozubska and a whole host of very well known
authorities and senior HR professionals from government, commerce and
industry, who met regularly at the International Management Centres
(IMC) networking group in Buckingham, UK.
The IMC networking group provided a highly dynamic creative thinking
and process innovation environment which was centred around

developing the work based action learning concept and practice,

pioneered by Prof. Reg Revans. The result was a dynamic integrated
work-based curriculum process that shattered the mould on traditional
academic process thinking for management learning and development in
the context of organisations at that time.
Issues of learning relevance, real-time learning process management,
access and quality of up-to-the-minute courseware, personal learning
skills, collaborative learning competency, learning context appreciation
and last but not least, new methodologies for the evaluation of learning
achievements and outcomes, were just some of the areas of process
innovation and development that brought in much needed new thinking
and learner focused personal development practices.
The emergent process solutions produced high level benefits for
programme participants and their organisations. In one case savings and
increased revenue in the region of 22 million accrued in two years from
a programme investment of 280k, whilst at the same time producing
cohorts of high quality managers who would have a major role in leading
the companys performance transition forward to a higher level.

8.3 Can process innovations be a bridge too far?

All this proved to be a bridge too far for most officially appointed bodies
that regulated the assessment and recognition marketplace at that time.
The battle to mandate formal accreditation and awarding powers to the
originators of these programme initiatives in the UK never materialised;

although today many institutions world-wide nurture these process ideas.

Some have invented diluted versions such as blended learning, which
like all good compromises only meet the expectations of a limited number
of stakeholders in the workplace environment.
The challenges of design adoption in terms of identification, assessment
and recognition in high quality designs in dynamic real-time management
learning remain and are compounded by a plethora of pedagogical
inspired, technology driven e-learning practices. The need to achieve
both formal and real-time business inspired programme matching with
organisational needs and the dynamics of discontinuous lifelong learning
still provides innovative challenges in process design management and
to institutional infrastructures alike.
It is important to recognise that barriers exist to much-needed innovations
in formative and summative process management in lifelong learning
paradigms. And it is naive to assume that there is a ready commitment in
regulating bodies to immediately change long-established business
model practices that shape the market place for those institutions who
are authorised to award qualifications.

8.4 Perspectives on managing learning process innovations

The need for a pioneering spirit and innovations in lifelong learning
process design and management has, very clearly, not gone away. Our
current workload indicates that the globally connected environment is
accelerating and promoting company inspired process innovations and

adoption around work based solutions in many countries. Typically there

are many areas of innovation development and utilisation that are in need
of serious consideration and figure 1, a venn diagram mapping the
Intellectual Supply Chain [1] provides an agenda to review the challenges
that will require important developmental innovations in the context of
organisations and institutions if essential world class strategic alliances
are to materialise in the future.
The mapping agenda of the changing relationships between the public
and private sector organisations and their suppliers, their customers,
universities and business schools and specialist consultants, indicates for
those parties that wish to have a more shared relationship, that work
inspired learning process management has to move on from a boxed-up
piecemeal programme style of intervention. Learning process innovation
adoption has to become culturally embedded in a style of management
that is as familiar and present everyday as it is in the management
discipline of financial management; it has to be all pervasive.
To create such a pervasive environment requires a mindset that
recognises the escalating competitive nature of the global learning
management challenge. The financial and economic conditions prevailing
in world markets in the latter part of 2008 illustrates how interdependent
and integrated the global economy has become.
Ecotec thematic networking [2] and CEDEFOP validation of non-formal
and informal learning in Europe [3] both describe the state of the
European response and identify the need to revise, review and innovate

learning processes that will lead to world class high return on investment
lifelong learning process design and development and also provide a
developmental framework for every company and institution in shaping
their future process designs.
Achieving a condition of world class learning management performance
in organisations, through our learning process innovations, has always
been our companys de rigueur objective. Our ability to not only innovate
locally, but also to ensure as far as possible, that our processes are
sufficiently flexible to enable recognition at national and in institutional
back-office validation systems, is critically important in a competitive

Dynamic Learning Management Identifying Process Design

In the area of lifelong work inspired learning, the context for standards
assessment and the recognition of quality in learning outcomes achieved
are quite different to those employed in academic validation systems. An
organisation does not often see its business objectives in terms of
learning objectives and achievements and new learning process needs,
and considerable skills are required in the learning context translation.
The challenge is to draw down and interpret the business strategic
objectives to provide shaping parameters for learning programme design
at the portfolio level, at the internal lifelong learning programme level and
also at the external programme matching level.


The contextual array model below illustrates the range of design

elements that we relate to a learning process design brief in the
development of the programme concept design. Each of the members of
this contextual framework has a different impact value on the design of
the learning curriculum, its infrastructure and the mapping of detailed
learning events.


and costing


Global best




Figure 1: An array of contextual design influences




These are the mainstream influences for the identification and application
of learning process design parameters, all of which in part influence the
motivation of learners to participate, the quality of the learning journey
itself and its perceived benefits.
Agreeing at the outset on the key influencing factors and developing
specific knowledge of the contribution they make towards the
effectiveness and value of a learning process makes it much easier to
transform businesses aspirations into strands of learning activities. The
danger at this point is devise the way forward in terms of a curriculum
development master plan. This is a vain attempt to impose a totalitarian
order on events which are unlikely to happen in the prescribed way [2]
Be prepared to think and manage along the lines of a people-ware
metaplan, i.e. instill a belief in the dynamics of piecemeal growth,
managing through shared design principles and local control of design by
those people who will occupy the learning space. Abandon mechanistic
project management ideas.

8.5 Management of contextual influences

In this area of lifelong curriculum development we draw upon case work
from our application experiences (Figure 1):


8.5.1 Prioritising competitive learning objectives

The Prioritised competitive learning objectives element defines the
strategic translation of an organisations competitive advantage
statement; a typical statements would be:

to know the companys resource base capability in all respects

combine these attributes with multiple core technologies

to develop diverse and distinctive skills and competencies that will

generate both cost advantage and qualitative differentiation for
value creation through products that are difficult to imitate

have international market acceptance.

8.5.2 An a priori intellectual capital statement

The first stage in the translation of the competitive advantage statement
into a coherent learning management strategy takes the form of an
Intellectual Capital Survey (ICS). This produces a comprehensive
statement that defines the organisations real-time learning environment,
value creation and holding systems; systems and business processes
that imply continuous internal lifelong demand-led process innovations for
success. The ICS evaluation is concerned with identifying multiple
simultaneous project processes and system improvements as well as the
use of latest technologies and tools to achieve sustainable benefits.
This review includes observations on current international practice in
preparing intellectual capital profiles and collects evidence relating to the
performance of common factors that define the quality of an


organisations intangible assets. The structure of the organisations

intellectual capital is gathered in the form of evidence in the strands of:

human capital in the form of employee skills and employee

conduct, structural capital, IT governance, intellectual property,
organisational culture, organisational systems and processes, etc.

external stakeholders relational capital which includes: customer

relations, relations with suppliers, the public, and financial
channels, etc.

a value-added model which takes account of knowledge

acquisition and intelligence gathering strategies and R&D
activities, the performance metrics of these processes and the
impact achieved.

The survey combines known facts and processes from an intellectual

perspective and reflects what has been learnt and the processes
available for supporting real world new learning.
Fundamentally, the corporate level learning process design must be
connected to intellectual capital objectives that have to be sustained or
achieved. At the same time this must create visible career learning
pathways for a diverse range of individuals, underpinning and adding
marketable capital to the organisations competitive capability for the
benefit of all stakeholders.
These ICS dynamics have to be translating into a coherent learning
strategy that matches across into formal and informal new learning
processes internally, and provides a basis for matching to external

programme portfolio provision. This defines the basis for corporate

learning management and lifelong process design.
Identifying this situation and its condition is the first milestone on the
pathway to crafting learning processes.
8.5.3 The contextual influences of best practices
With regard to a reliable research base of global best practice, we rely on
our international capture and updated intelligence reportage systems and
best practice inventory (BPI), which provides a valued point of reference.
8.5.4 The contextual influences of learners
With regard to the two elements, personal learning aspirations &
matching learning opportunities, typically we apply training needs
analysis (TNA) on a departmental, SBU or sector basis. Additionally we
consider and review hindrances to participation: of a personal and
cultural nature, having practical space to learn, learning behaviour
preferences and institutional quality and prior experience.
Reviewing positive motivational factors leads to considerations around a
persons interest in their work with regard to enjoyment and fulfilment,
their out-reach for personal development and independence regarding
employability, their aims to develop a strong family situation and level of
prosperity, ambition for learning progression, level of community
involvement and their propensity towards wider participation and


Other common catalysts of influence include demographics, the

necessity for learning with regard to job demands, life changing crises,
commitment to helping raise the quality of family learning, moving on and
setting an example to others and wanting to play a more useful role in
voluntary or community activities. APEL profiles contribute to this strand
of design consideration.
Critically important is the opportunity context for progressive work
inspired learning. Not all job positions provide the scope for progressive
developmental learning or the supporting people infrastructure in the form
of mentors, coaches and executive support. These arrangements have to
be embedded in the lifelong learning ethos of the organisation.
It is also important to have an assessment system for learning process
skills and competencies achieved that is directly connected to real-time
management performance. Our framework of assessment includes the
ability to articulate and communicate, the ability to select and design own
learning assignments, skills in the execution of learning, quality of the
situational analysis and decision making skills. The achievement of an
ability to select, design and execute own learning assignments of quality
is the core key dynamic to be achieved in effective lifelong learning. The
learner is effectively taking responsibility for progressively designing mini
learning curricula going forward.
8.5.5 Technology context e-learning influences
The growing emphasis on e-learning, whilst bringing many advantages,
also brings questions about whether the process design lead elements

becomes subordinated to technological innovation rather than leading

with personal and collaborative group learning process innovations. The
design question is can e-learning be combined without loss of benefit in
learning relevance, quality real-time learning process management,
access to up-to-the-minute sector courseware, the development of selfdirected personal learning skills and collaborative learning competency,
learning context appreciation and loss of meaningful assessment in the
context of learning achievements and outcomes?. Design skills in
software and support technology selection and application are of growing
We have to consider what technologies may be appropriate in the
dynamic curriculum environment, for instance Web 2, EPSS, blogging, email, QQ and other chat tools, discussion forum, search engines, Skype,
PC access and/or PDAs, social networking and learning communication
networks, wireless infrastructure, virtual learning environments, Wiki-style
resources, subject databases, etc. They make up that unique
combination of resources and e-instruments that have to complement
and not detract from the development of a learners reflective, evaluative
and executive skills.
8.5.6 Matching programme accreditation influences
In a dynamic lifelong learning management curriculum design process,
the focus is in the direction of career progression and achieving
additional job competencies that will take an individual into a higher level
of job satisfaction or into a new realm of management. The career aspect

is a major driver in the propensity to learn, especially where the

participants already have higher degrees, organisational learning is
therefore seen as the principal goal in itself.
Matching business based learning needs with institutional provision has
to move on as a lifelong learning management skill in itself; we do not
intend getting married to a dinosaur is how one HR director described
her companys position.
Whilst an external qualification is seen as beneficial to the participating
learners commitment and to the value derived from the programme or
process, it is important to develop not only a detailed programme brief,
but to also define in detail how the relationship will work in a properly
contracted arrangement. This works well when the style of the
relationship is customer/supplier. A successful involvement can develop
across a range of training, education, consultancy, information, and
support services that have common threads in science, technology,
finance or industry sectors. With this depth of shared knowledge,
participation in the clients design process by university and business
school personnel can add quality and value to the process.
Innovations in this strategic relationship area are accelerating with
leading business schools recognising that a quality education alone will
not teach a manager enough to succeed in todays real world business
situations. The importance of a global perspective in an increasingly
inter-connected world and relevant work experience is now an essential
part of management education and is gaining momentum. This offers

opportunities for much greater in-depth collaborative working.

Commensurately with this trend, some major business schools are
reshaping their curriculum to address the very pressing multi-disciplinary
problems of today which could not be addressed by traditional academic
8.5.7 Investment appreciation and costing
Investment appreciation and learning costs materialise out of the initial
process drafting and its first refinement. Potentials for payback become
clear and the business model for successful lifelong learning emerges as
the effect of all the contextual influences are weighed and the time
commitments of learners are evaluated. Contextual influencing factors
are important in shaping the real-time process design decision
environment across both formative and summative approaches.
The benefits of being able to envisage the potential benefits in each
dedicated learning situation removes a great deal of the uncertainty that
surrounds the financial benefit assessment issue. Outcomes that have
specific connections with business performance enhancements,
improvements in productivity, market penetration, enhanced functional
capability or cost saving, are directly connected to working learning
groups and individuals and provide the basis for recognition and awards.

8.6 Combining key influences for process optimisation

Decisions have to be made to define the order of magnitude and role of
each of the eight contextual influences in engendering the positioning

and the timing of events in the executive lifelong learning process.

Questions still abound, however, concerning the extent and need for
learning process formalisation which will vary during a learners lifetime,
with the changing context of subject or discipline to be learnt, tactical,
functional and strategic development objectives and the envisaged
progressive sequence of learning achievement. Figure 2 illustrates the
discontinuous dynamic effects in the lifelong learning paradigm, showing
a pattern of wide diversity in progressive learning, taking-in short
intensive bursts, more protracted periods, and other variable instances of
active learning behaviour.

Incremental Learning
knowledge plus
skills and


Progressive Assignments

Figure 2: Managing Discontinuities in Lifelong Learning

Whilst the contextual framework model for process design exudes
complexity, interdisciplinary thinking and critical thinking skills, the
ultimate aim on the operational side of the learning process is to build in
a people and technological infrastructure that enables quality in the realtime dynamic learning experience for each learner and their communities.
This includes mechanisms for the support of spontaneous on-the-spot
learning, portable 24/7 small and flexible and transferable e-learning

systems and performance support environments. These are the enabling

process performance drivers that eliminate frustration and bring
connected systemic flow to the lifelong learning environment; its not a
disconnected event but part of the everyday thinking [4].
The move to a comprehensive process design approach to an
individuals lifelong learning curriculum is now more timely than at any
previous time and the Signposter Programme [5], shows just how
possible and effective such instruments are.

8.7 Design is the core dynamic of innovation

In an age where employees have by necessity to take responsibility for
designing and managing their own learning and have to become more
self-directed and less deferential, it is necessary for them to develop
informed perspectives on the changing interdependencies between
employers and employees [6], and the current and changing impact of
the influencing elements. Learning about managing personal learning
and understanding the design process is a most important skill-set to be
Real-time learning design becomes a shared discipline and is not to be
confused with instructional design. Visible outcomes of success in the
management of these processes and systems manifest themselves in
higher quality employee recruitment and retention, higher levels of
collaboration and cooperation, and better performance in customer
acquisition and retention.

A high level of awareness for the coincidence of learning opportunity and

the intuitive response are skills to be honed as they play an important
part in the effectiveness of the process. Lifelong learning processes can
also assist the identification of talented individuals and whilst financial
incentives play a major influencing role for employees, the intangible
factors, such as the public perception of the enterprise, its acknowledged
expertise, opportunities for advancement, the corporate culture and the
ethos of the working climate, may be more decisive in many cases.
Benefits can also be expected to follow from the every aspect of process
evolution and management from the drafting of the process design brief,
thro concept design and development, to delivery and support. The
introduction of cross cutting design processes that span across
hierarchical levels, heightens understanding of how the organisations
enterprise architecture and learning stimulates the many strands of
energy in an enterprise culture.
Our holistic perspective of the dynamics of lifelong learning and its
connections with other employee disciplines, structures, relationships and
ultimately business success, helps to make clear the status and
importance of contributions by the individual learner. It helps to create
transparency and confidence between employees, organisational units
and functions. Whilst the process benefits accrue to learners
operationally, the benefits that are engendered by design teams
throughout the formative process are significant - they have the power to
realise new design ideas, provide a forum for workshops for the

promotion of critical thinking skills and bring positive engagement to the

often isolated IT department.
Achieving the right composition of the process management team and
good relationships with the learning community are objectives that are
the heartland dynamics of the corporate university operational activities.
We find that the white space in an organisation is the most productive
learning centre. Lifelong learning process design and management helps
to overcome the destructive turf-war tensions that can exist between
functions. The design process should have a lifetime learning
management capability and be non-deterministic so that it becomes selfadaptive to the changing contexts and the changing demands and ideas
of the people who want to learn.
The open structured/unstructured process that has been described
ensures that everyone who wants to take part has the opportunity to do
so and that the important movers and shakers are supportive. This also
ensures confirmation or fine-tuning of the holistic contextual view for the
work inspired learning management best practices and promotes
acceptance of the results.
The questions that were precipitated at the BILD Connect meeting
promoted serious reflection on the challenges that face innovations in
lifelong learning process design and management and how they can or
cannot, or need to, meld with established pedagogical validation
procedures and processes. Search for your answer to this challenge, it
will provide an important understanding of the policy environment for new

thinking and emergent practice and a mapping point when starting out on
the journey for designing and improving company learning processes.
The right answer for your organisation will prevent creating learner
expectations and having outcome objectives in mind that cannot be

Bibliography: References and further reading

1. Dealtry, R. (2008) Exploration of a contextual management frame
work for strategic learning alliances. Journal of Workplace Learning,
Vol. 20, No. 6.
2. Ecotec Thematic Networking Group
3. Validation of non-formal and informal learning in Europe, CEDEFOP,
4. VEGA The Learning Spectrum,
5. Signposter Programme,
6. Inform Newsletter, Issue 22, Summer 2008,
Laurillard, D. (2008) Digital technologies and their role in achieving our
ambitions for education. London: Institute of Education University of
In their own words, exploring the learners perspective on e-learning,

Effective practice with e-portfolios, supporting 21st century learning, jisc,
Dealtry, R. (2007) From Learning to Earning in the Age of Knowledge
Innovation. Birmingham: DSA Publications,
DeMarco, T. & T. Lister (1999) Peopleware Productive Projects and
Teams. New York: Dorset House Publishing.
CIPD (2007) Developing Performance Measures, CIPD Human Capital
Panel Report, Summer 2007. London: CIPD


Chapter 9
Collaborative Leadership and Organisational Learning:
Lessons from the French RDT (Rseau de Diffusion
Technologique) Initiative

Dr. Hlya ztel

9.1 Introduction
In France as in many Anglo-Saxon countries, public-private partnerships
have become significant means of delivering public policies.
Researchers interest in the critical success factors associated with
partnering has led to a growing international body of literature which
explores issues as diverse as trust, shared understanding, partnership
history, collaborative capability, partner commitment and equality,
collaborative advantage and partnership synergy as drivers
underpinning collaborative efforts. More recently, a growing number of
researchers have focused their empirical investigations on the notion of
collaborative leadership, discussing concepts such as boundary spanning
and reticulist skills. Others by contrast have focused on the political
implications of partnerships by exploring the formation of governance
systems and discussing their implications in terms of power in regional
policy making. Both strands of literature are ultimately concerned with
the processes underpinning the formation and enactment of collaborative

authority and the establishment of collaborative goals. They are

therefore intertwined with collaborative leadership issues, even though
their focus is different. The boundary spanning literature centres on the
role of one individual, while the governance literature focuses on the
emergence of groups of individuals as powerful regional elites shaping
policy making.
This chapter presents empirical findings on collaborative leadership,
which are drawn from a broader study of inter-organisational learning
within public-private partnership contexts. The chapter centres on the
analysis of one French Rseau de Diffusion Technologique (RDT)
partnership, Prsence Rhne Alpes. The RDT initiative is one of the key
means by which technology transfer and regional innovation policies are
implemented in French regions. By using organisational learning theory
the study reported here explores some of the processes that underpinned
the enactment of collaborative authority. The aim is to unravel the role of
appointed partnership managers and the relative significance of
emerging governance systems in order to draw conclusions on the nature
of collaborative leadership.

9.2 Leadership in collaborative policy making

The literature on partnership leadership distances itself from traditional
command and control perspectives associated with private sector
business operations, and introduces concepts such as lateral influence
and boundary spanning. Such emphasis mirrors the often complex
nature of partnerships, as they span public, voluntary and private spheres

and rarely display clear hierarchical lines and authority structures. This
context creates unique challenges for partnership managers and raises
questions about the meaning of partnership leadership.
For example, in her study of US based economic development
partnerships, Coe argues that partnership leaders must have a clear
sense of direction, however they do not closely control, but allow others
the latitude to create solutions and make decisions (1988 pp 520). This
stems from the fact that the system is composed of many groups and
individuals, no one organization or individual generally has overall
hierarchical authority. Authority is often unclear or overlapping, and
power is shared. As such lateral influence is more relevant than is
hierarchical authority. (Coe, 1988 pp. 518). A similar point is made by
Huxham and Vangen (2000) who highlight the limitations of the leaderfollower premise that is widely accepted within the leadership literature,
and connect leadership influence with transformation (meaning, here, a
change in partner behaviour as a result of leadership influence) (Huxham
& Vangen, 2000 pp. 1160):
[] there is a problem with the leader-follower presumption. The
implication that there is a formally acknowledged leader with managerial
responsibility and a hierarchical relationship with followers does not apply
in collaborations because the individuals involved come from different
organizations or groups. The leadership challenge [] is concerned with
influencing or transforming individuals only (or at least largely) to the
extent that such transformation may, in turn, affect the behavior of

Therefore, some of the key tasks that Huxham and Vangen (2000)
associate with partnership leadership are about inspiring, nurturing,
supporting and communicating. This is to a large extent very close to the
characteristics that Coe (1988) attached to what she called evocative
leadership and linking communication.
Sullivan and Skelcher (2002) argue that collaborative capability is largely
dependent on the presence of boundary spanners and reticulists (i.e.
people who are skilled communicators and have excellent networking
and negotiating skills enabling them to bring partners together by
identifying areas of common ground). Such individuals can fulfil the need
for leadership in a range of situations, including circumstances where it is
not possible to discern a formal leader. In such cases, leadership needs
to be exercised through the employment of personal skills such as
persuasion, through the application of processes and activities that
nurture and facilitate co-operation between individuals and organisations
and through the use of personal authority to access necessary resources
to contribute to the collaborative effort (Sullivan & Skelcher, 2002 pp.
104). In the case of mandated partnerships, where leaders are
appointed because of their position, or the role of their organisation within
the partnership, there can be a significant learning challenge. Indeed,
individuals find themselves applying their leadership capacity in a new
environment, one where hierarchies have been replaced by networks and
inter-organisational reliance and it is not possible to lead simply by virtue
of ones formal authority in unitary bureaucracy (Sullivan & Skelcher,
2002 pp. 104).

The notion that a clearly identifiable individual can determine the strategic
orientation of a partnership formally or informally is close to the concept
of centrality, that emerged from the study of private business networks
(Gnyawali & Madhavan, 2001). These authors define centrality as the
position of an individual actor in the network, it denotes the extent to
which a focal actor occupies a strategic position in the network by virtue
of being involved in many significant ties (Gnyawali & Madhavan, 2001
pp. 434-435). Such a focus on an individuals brokering position in
networks or partnership is characteristic of the partnership management
literature. Individuals are singled out for their ability to act as catalysts or
display cross-cutting behaviour. Overall the emphasis is on the skills
such individuals possess.
Williams work (2002) on boundary spanning is typical of this approach.
He is concerned with the factors that influence the effective collaborative
behaviour and competence of key agents managing within interorganizational theatres (Williams, 2002 pp. 103). Williams argues that
partnerships are characterised by networked forms of governance, and
that networking is the predominant modus operandi of choice of the
boundary spanner. However, he also shows that within the particular
partnership he analysed key decision makers operate in a social network,
which effectively steers the partnership (Williams, 2002 pp. 117):
Within the particular interorganisational domain studied, there is a welldeveloped network of key movers and shakers- primary nodes in the

network which make the partnership work. It consists of a reservoir of

people active at a strategic level, representing different agencies, and
organizations who are referred to as the usual suspects because of their
appearance in many different partnerships
This empirical finding raises important questions about the notion of
collaborative leadership. In particular, most of the literature, including
Williams own work, centres on the role of key individuals, boundary
spanners, who facilitate the development of shared strategies by relying
on unique personal and inter-personal skills. Yet the empirical
observation quoted above suggests that there was a group, a social
network of individuals who collectively operated as the strategic apex of
the partnership observed. Academic discussions that highlight the role of
such groups are by no means absent. They put to the fore political
discussions of notions of governance and, in particular, of lite
Lowndes and Skelcher (1998) identified the limitations of assuming that
the principles of cooperation and mutuality associated with ideal type
networks readily apply to partnerships. They further highlight the need to
pay more attention to the issue of power. For them, What remains
unanswered and to some extent, unasked are the conventional
questions of the pluralist debate: who has power, who gains and loses as
the policy makers obsession with networks and partnerships grows?
(1998 pp. 331 ).


In the French context, there is evidence that governance elites do carve

up power in regional policy fields. Le Gales (2001) shows that urban
political elites have deliberately encouraged the formation of networks in
Rennes, using them as means of restructuring power and authority in
policy fields such as culture, urban planning and property development
(Le Gals P., 2001 pp. 168):
The redistribution of authority goes hand in hand with the multiplication
of some policy networks, the development of regulation mechanisms
through negotiation, cooperation based on interests but also on trust or
values together with new forms of domination and conflicts.
Le gales (2001) clearly underlines however the critical role the local
authority and its agents played in steering these elites in such a way that
their policy implementation activities were clearly in line with the councils
political and social objectives.

9.3 Partnership learning and collaborative leadership

Early developments in the organisational learning literature were linked to
debates on the nature and role of leadership. Although empirical
evidence was merely emerging, notions of single and double loop
learning were debated in a paper published by Argyris in 1976 in
Administrative Science Quarterly. Therein, Argyris provided a critique of
the 1974 book Leadership and Ambiguity by Cohen and March. His main
concern related to the assumption Cohen and March made about
leaders ability to enhance decision-making (Argyris, 1976 pp. 364):

Cohen and March (1974) view inter-group coalition rivalries, avoidance

of uncertainty, interpersonal threat and mistrust as factors inhibiting
decision-making effectiveness, but they were viewed as factors to be
understood not altered.
Argyris suggested that the idea that change was possible, even if the
underlying causes of the problems an organisation experienced were not
addressed, was paradoxical. He agreed that Cohen and Marchs
approach to learning was the dominant form of organisational learning
and labelled it single loop learning. He called for double loop learning
which according to him was more likely to generate sustainable change
(Argyris, 1976 pp. 367):
One might say that participants in organizations are encouraged to learn
to perform as long as the learning does not question the fundamental
design, goals, and activities of their organizations. This learning may be
called single loop learning. In double loop learning, a participant would
be able to ask questions about changing fundamental aspects of the
Therefore, Argyris contested the idea that scholars should promote a
form of organisational action that relied on what he labelled limited
learning systems. Instead he suggested that double loop learning
should be sought and a model promoting this form of learning should be
established so that decision-making effectiveness could be sustained
using an explanatory approach to effective decision-making (Argyris,
1976 pp. 367):

To intervene in these circular processes, one needs a model that helps

to explain what aspects of current behavior of decision makers and policy
makers inhibit double loop learning, a model that would increase the
effectiveness of decision-making and of policy making, and finally one
that would make it possible to use the explanatory model to achieve
A key area of contention between Argyris and Cohen in 1976 was
therefore about leaders ability to alter embedded elements of
organisational culture and practices. Whilst Cohen proposed to work with
inter-group rivalries, Argyris recommended that such issues needed to be
addressed to enable double loop learning, the latter being necessary for
sustainable change in organisations.
In a short, yet emphatic rejoinder published in the same issue of
Administrative Science Quarterly, Michael Cohens position was clear.
He would rather work with organisational realities as they were
experienced; and optimise decision-making within them rather than try to
impose idealistic approaches unlikely to be in sink with the way human
beings operate (Cohen, 1976 pp. 376-377):
His [Argyris] objection is to what he views as our support of the world
as it is when we recommend to leaders how best to cope with what they
face. He would not have us offer advice premised upon the continued
existence of organizational realities that he and I agree are unhappy. We
differ as to whether those realities can be readily altered. In particular, he
believes that the extent to which behavior in organizations is driven (he

might say distorted) by the pursuit of individual interests can be

substantially reduced by recommending a different theory of leadership. I
confess I rather doubt it. My doubt rests in the one hand on the
pervasiveness of conflict in human affairs and, on the other, on the
perennial scarcity of that most precious resource, attention. These have
been two central elements of political scientists perspectives on human
affairs since the disciplines emergence with Machiavelli. []. If conflict
and attention scarcity are substantially irreducible features of social life,
there will be present in most social situations powerful incentives not to
convey full and accurate information, not to protect others interests or to
trust others, to protect ones own, not, in short to behave according to an
ideal standard that all might espouse and, indeed, genuinely prefer.
In a subsequent publication, Argyris and Schn (1978) provide a more
refined definition of single and double loop learning. According to them
organizational learning involves the detection and correction of error.
When the error detected and corrected permits the organization to carry
on its present policies or achieve its present objectives, then that errordetection and-correction process is single loop learning. [] Double
loop learning occurs when error is detected and corrected in ways that
involve the modification of an organizations underlying norms, policies
and objectives. (Argyris & Schn, 1978 pp. 2-3). A range of scholars
have followed similar lines of argument, by, in particular, highlighting the
significance of tensions or crises in initiating organisational learning
(Cangelosi & Dill, 1965; Pauchant & Mitroff, 1992; Sagan, 1994).


Therefore the validity and relevance of double loop learning as a

concept, was brought into question almost at the point of inception.
However, it has evolved and been widely adopted, renamed, to the
extent that it is considered to be one of the building blocks of
organisational learning theory. Since the distinction between single and
double loop learning was made, variants of the same concepts have
been offered, including lower and higher level learning (Fiol & Lyles,
1985), adaptive and generative learning (Senge, 1990), paradigm
constrained and paradigm breaking learning (See Argyris, 2001 for a
The definitions of single and double loop learning, strongly build on the
idea that organisations possess cultural frameworks that incorporate their
norms, values, goals and strategies. Such frameworks have been
analysed by Argyris and Schn (1978) as organisational images, maps
and as organisational theories of action.
Images and maps are key components of organisational life. They are
constructed at individual level, can be shared. As such they capture
collective understanding of organisational values, including, for example,
norms that determine what is acceptable or unacceptable behaviour.
They were described as the shared descriptions of organization which
individuals jointly construct and use to guide their own inquiry (Argyris &
Schn, 1978 pp. 17). Such shared understanding and descriptions tend
to be tacit and acquired through socialisation processes extensively
analysed in the knowledge management literature (Nonoka, 1994; Lam,

1997) but also explored much ealier by Bandura (1977) as he published

his theory of social learning.
These images and maps have been labelled in more recent publications
organisational mental models (Kim, 1993; Senge, 1990). Kim (1993) in
particular analyses in detail the building blocks of mental models
distinguishing between norms, values6 on the one hand and routine
behaviour that has become deeply embedded within organisational
practice on the other.
According to Argyris and Schn these maps shape organizations
instrumental theory of action (Argyris & Schn, 1978 pp. 15):
The companys instrumental theory of action is a complex system of
norms, strategies, and assumptions. It includes in its scope the
organizations patterns of communication and control, its ways of
allocating resources to goals, and its provisions for self-maintenancethat is for rewarding and punishing individual performance, for
constructing career ladders and regulating the rate at which individuals
climb them, and for recruiting new members and instructing them in the
ways of the organization.

Kim groups norms and values and labels them using the German term Weltanshaung,

to suggest that these act as filters, and enable individuals and organisations to make
sense of reality.


Further, organisations theories of actions are of two kinds. They include

espoused theories and theories in use. Although these concepts were
introduced in the early work (Argyris and Schn,1978), definitions have
been simplified and shortened in subsequently (Argyris & Schn, 1996
pp. 13):
By espoused theory we mean the theory of action which is advanced to
explain or justify a given pattern of activity. By theories in use we mean
the theory of action which is implicit in the performance of that pattern of
Much of Argyris and Schns work since the 1970s as well as that many
other scholars (Shrivastava, 1983; Simon, 1991; Simonin, 1997; Child &
Heavens, 2001) has focused on showing how and why there tends to be
discrepancies between how individuals and organisations tend to
rationalise and explain their actions (espoused theories) and the actual
rationales that led to these actions (theories in use). The exploration of
how individuals and groups learn is a line of inquiry that has been
pursued in psychology before it was applied to organisation studies. This
was particularly the approach adopted by Albert Bandura. The concept
of social learning is rooted in his (1977) work on human behavior and
psychology of learning. According to Banduras social learning theory,
psychological functioning is a continuous reciprocal interaction between
personal, behavioural, and environmental determinants (1977 pp. 194).
Human behaviour is the outcome of individual learning which can be
either rooted in direct experience (learning by response consequences
according to Bandura -more widely known as experiential learning (Kolb,

1976)), or the outcome of observation (learning through modelling, also

analysed as vicarious learning - (Gioia & Manz, 1985)). In the case of
experiential learning, individuals appraise the differential response their
actions trigger and select successful forms of behaviour whilst discarding
those that were ineffectual or triggered negative responses. However,
Bandura argues that learning would be exceedingly laborious, not to
mention hazardous, if people had to rely solely on the effects of their own
actions to inform them what to do (1977 pp. 22). According to him, most
human behavior is learned observationally through modelling: from
observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed,
and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for
action (1977 pp. 22). Environmental determinants, that is the social
response to an individuals actions (including social control mechanisms),
are key factors shaping future behaviour in organisational spheres, as
well as private/social spheres. Because of their tacit nature,
organisational theories in use are disseminated through the kind of social
learning process that is described by Bandura. In that sense, the role of
groups as vehicles for developing and sharing norms and values
becomes a particularly pertinent issue, especially in collaborative
contexts where the building of a cohesive social group, given the diversity
of organisational cultures and interests they represent, is a challenge.

9.4 Context and focus of the study

The Rseau de Diffusion Technologique (RDT) initiative was launched in
1989 at the initiative of Hubert Curien, minister for Research and
Technology. A key priority of the government at the time was to boost

levels of industrial research and innovation, seen fundamental for local

economic development (Ministre de l'Education nationale de la
Recherche et de la Technologie, 1989).
Since the 1980s support for innovation had become a corner stone of
French economic development policies. Numerous initiatives, including
local and national projects, had flourished in regions, in particular in the
context of the 8th and 9th series of negotiations for government-region
planning contracts7.

There was therefore a need to coordinate all

activities that were available. RDTs were seen as means of achieving

that. The 1989 prospectus called for the establishment of very wide
ranging partnerships, involving ministerial offices in the regions,
Chambers of Commerce including agencies they run - educational
institutions, research centres, as well as a range of agencies (public and
private) providing specialist services and advice to existing firms in the
field of technology transfer and innovation (Ministre de l'Education
nationale de la Recherche et de la Technologie, 1989).
In 1990 RDTs were piloted in four regions: Lorraine, Bretagne, Rhne
Alpes and Limousin. Their main purpose was to pool service providers
and to facilitate technology transfer to SMEs by enhancing access to

These government-region planning contracts (in French, Contrats de Plan Etat-

Rgion) are a set of measures periodically agreed between each French region and the
government. They establish the economic and social policy priorities for the region and
set out associated budgets (Lescot & Sinou, 2000).


exiting services and by delivering new tailored services focused on their

needs. Local players had explicit mandates to get involved in the project.
Nonetheless, the government stated that it remained flexible and open to
operational solutions and agreements resulting from local consensus.
The overall outcomes of RDTs were judged positive in pilot regions. As a
consequence, it was decided that the initiative should be extended to
remaining regions. By 1994 twelve RDTs were established (Rseau
Interregional de Diffusion Technologique, 1998). All RDTs created since
1991 had the explicit support from their Region but their financial
commitment came later when in 1994 regions were formally invited to
contribute to RDTs funding. Overall funding levels were agreed in the
round of negotiations for government - region planning contracts for
1994-1998. This led to local changes in the statutes of RDTs, indeed in
some cases, entirely new non-profit organisations had to be created to
form the support structure for the local RDT partnership. Further the
mission of RDTs was redefined reflecting regions involvement. By 1996,
the overall number of RDTs reached 18. With the creation of RDTs in
Alsace, Auvergne, and Bourgogne in 1997 and 1998, and in 1999 in Ile
de France twenty-two French regions were covered, representing
Frances entire continental territory (Rseau Interregional de Diffusion
Technologique, 1999).
The establishment of the RDT network was therefore a slow process,
which spanned over 10 years. The overall rationale for the initiative
during this period remained the same but experimentation across regions
and regular central government reviews led to progressive refinement in

goals and objectives over time (Ministre de l'Education nationale de la

Recherche et de la Technologie, 1989).
Two ministries are involved in the financing and policy design for RDTs,
the Ministry of National Education, Research and Technology (mostly
referred to as the Ministry of Education and Research) and the Ministry of
Industry, Post and Telecommunications and Foreign Trade (mostly
referred to as the Ministry of Industry). They jointly channel funds and
policy guidelines through their respective regional offices, the DRIRE for
the ministry of Industry and the DRRT for the Ministry of Education and
Research. However the management of the initiative was delegated to
the ANVAR (Agence Nationale de Valorisation de la Recherche), a
national agency for the promotion of research and technological
development in industry. As such, ANVAR is responsible for the
initiatives monitoring and provides funding ministries with statistical data
reflecting RDTs activities (Ministre de l'Education nationale de la
Recherche et de la Technologie, 1995):
Since the initiative came from the Ministry of Education and research,
and since the ministry wanted to get the ministry of industry associated to
the project, but also wanted an organisation that was very close to SMEs,
it requested that the initiative be managed by ANVAR at the national
level. Because ANVAR is under dual control: education / research and
industry. So it was an effective means of co-ordinating both ministries, it
was a means of having a joint operator (RIDT Senior Manager, 1998)


ANVAR established the RIDT (Rseau Inter-regional de Dvelopment

Technologique), a unit dedicated to the monitoring of RDTs and to the
dissemination of good practice across regions.
Despite the 1989 prospectus and the large call for involvement, the
DRRT, DRIRE and ANVAR were clearly identified by the government as
drivers of the initiative. Their partnership at the institutional level was
prescribed, effectively representing central government at regional level.
Since 1994, the Conseil Regional joined the core partnership by
becoming one of the funding bodies. These four organisations are
commonly called the gang of four, suggesting a level of influence that
goes beyond that of other partners (RDT Manager , 1998). The
mandated collaboration between these four organisations has de facto
been a basic rule of engagement in RDTs.
In some regions, this proved to be a source of tension as some partners
struggled against each other in order to claim ownership and sole
strategic leadership. Following the 1999 national review of all RDTs, this
issue was formally recognised. The government re-iterated the principle
of shared leadership and emphasised the need to agree overarching
regional technology transfer policies within the RDT framework by
members of the gang of four:
The Comit de Pilotage relies on a core made of the DRIRE, the DRRT,
the ANVAR and the Conseil Regional. Its composition may further be
specified, and where necessary, other institutions may be associated []
The strategic piloting of RDTs assumes involvement of key institutional

partners, and the search of consensus, therefore excluding unilateral

control by one of the partners. (Rseau Interregional de Diffusion
Technologique, 1999 pp.37)
In Rhne-Alpes, the local partnership, Prsence Rhne-Alpes (Prsence
Rhne-Alpes), was not immune to these tensions. Conflicts were
intense well before these government guidelines were in place. They
culminated with the breakdown of collaborative efforts, undermining the
existence and sustainability of the partnership. However Prsence
Rhne-Alpes is today held as an example of a successful partnership
centrally, reflecting strong regional leadership in the technology transfer
policy field. The long history of this partnership therefore provides an
ideal opportunity to explore the processes that collaborating parties
developed to overcome the hurdles they experienced over time and the
changes that enabled them to turn around the effectiveness of their
collaborative efforts.

9.5 Findings: Informal Leadership or Institutionalised Elite

Although respondents tended not to question or mention the issue of
collaborative leadership directly, some of the stories they told were
directly related to this issue. The ideas expressed about leadership in
both partnerships seem to be fitting the distinction that Argyris and Schn
(1978) made between espoused theory and theory in use. Collaborative
technology transfer policy making within the formal realm of the RDT is
the shared espoused theory, also that which is promoted centrally.

We started off with this RDT, which in its operation and goals mirrored
national guidelines. (Senior Conseil Regional Manager, 1999)
It assumes harmonious collaboration amongst institutional players within
the formally created framework of the RDT. On the other hand, the
theory in use assumes decision-making that is informal and conducted
outside formal partnership settings. Such an emphasis on informal
decision-making is largely historical. Before they constituted Prsence
Rhne-Alpes, most of the key partners were involved in the GRITT, the
first collaborative structure to focus on technology and innovation in small
firms in the region. Decision making within the GRITT was mostly
You see, I lived the history of this partnership. When I joined the
Chamber of Commerce in 1988, the network [the GRITT] was primarily
informal and based on a small number of key people at the time. It was
more of a peoples network. [] At the time the main goal was to
ensure collaboration between institutions, but without formalisation.
(Chamber of Commerce Senior Manager , 1999).
This network [the GRITT] was primarily a gathering of actors who would
generally meet informally. Thats how it started. Then, it evolved. It
evolved because actors realised that while the meetings were useful,
there was a need for shared objectives; there was also a need for
proposals that could be made to businesses. In other words we needed
to move and indeed get results. (ARIST Managing Director, 1999)


Currently, partners still strive to resolve key issues informally. They

extensively resort to coalition building, political manoeuvring outside
established decision-making forums in order to achieve consensual
outcomes and to develop jointly owned policies.
These [coalitions] are very explicit in the debates we have had. There
are alliances. [] The advantage of having an ally is that you can defend
an idea as opposed to a personal point of view. It is not about saying
something to annoy others, but we are four and there are a number of us
who think the same way. It lends weight to the argument. It means that
it is not a technical argument designed ultimately to control, or justify
political strategies. But it is indeed about promoting small businesses
happiness. (DRRT Chief Executive., 1999)
In addition to informal decision-making, the GRITT experience
embedded within the partnership the principle of private sector
involvement. However, one of the most significant crises in the life of
Prsence Rhne-Alpes stemmed precisely from leadership challenges
that arose from such involvement. Figure 1 analyses the learning
sequence associated with this crisis which ultimately led to the
partnership managers departure. It suggests that informal collaborative
decision-making was a key tacit norm within the partnership. By making
a range of deliberate unilateral decisions, particularly in relation to
partnership marketing, the manager breached this tacit norm (theory in
use), although one could argue that his actions were consistent with the
espoused theory that Prsence Rhne-Alpes needed to develop and

deliver a shared technology transfer strategy (in line with national





Figure 1: Single Loop Learning Associated with Informal Decision-making

The problem with mandating a partnership with the development and

implementation of a shared technology transfer strategy is that it may
have seemed to provide the partnership manager the legitimacy and
authority to direct the process.
Well I told you, at one point in time, institutional partners were not in
agreement with the partnership managers line. Roughly, the manager
wanted If you like I think that he wanted to structure the partnership
and manage it like his business. So he wanted to formalise, when he
needed to operate at the informal level. [] And institutional partners
were not that was not the point. I think that he indeed started to create
a problem the moment he decided to structure, organise, dictate this or
the other. The problem is that you can only achieve. You cannot dictate.

You need to get people working by convincing them instead of dictating

to them. (RDT Manager, 1999)
This approach created significant tensions for established institutional
players whose power and authority was threatened by the newcomer
they had appointed, in a context where institutional players themselves
struggled with partnering as this was a new way of working for them. As
one of the respondents pointed out the most important question
remained unspoken and plagued the partnership: who was going to
control it all? (DRRT Chief Executive., 1999). The practical solution that
emerged as power struggles persisted was to minimise the influence of
each partnering individual, in particular the partnership manager whose
unilateral decisions were increasingly alienating funding partners.
Figure 1 shows that by aiming to minimise the influence of a single
individual, members of the partnership were able to sustain their
emphasis on informal consensual decision-making (stage 1&2 in figure
1). However, in a context where power struggles were not resolved, this
meant that partners ability to generate a shared technology transfer
strategy was significantly hampered (stages 3 and 4). While partners
tacit recognition of the need to minimise individual power enabled them to
avoid conflict, it also meant that there was a leadership vacuum, which
undermined the partnerships ability to generate a joint technology
transfer strategy. The partnership reached a stalemate as the partnership
managers attempt to instigate change further weakened institutional
partners trust and commitment.

At the time, I was not here, but I still experienced it as a member, the
crisis that took place I think that at one point in time, the partnerships
manager, who was leading a business of more than a thousand
employees so not the kind of business we deal with every day - saw
things differently from institutional partners. The manager and the chair
he appointed and institutional partners had diverging points of view.
(RDT Manager, 1999)
Secondly, he [the partnership manager] implemented a large PR
campaign for Prsence. And I think that institutional players did not
agree with that. But, you know, it is always the same thing; when
institutional players have in front of them a manager, they do not dare
risk a confrontation, etc. Often the schism appears, the abyss gets
deeper, nobody talks to anybody. There are misunderstandings; these
get bigger over time It creates an atmosphere where suspicion
prevails and one day divorce is necessary. The reality is that people did
not explain their positions. It is often like that. I must say however that
the PR campaign was particularly ambitious. Heavy communication and
advertisement to raise awareness of Prsence Rhne-Alpes, the logo
etc The advertising budget was very strong. I believe it has had an
impact. But institutional partners do not like that their money is used for
advertising purposes. That is a kind of recurrent problem, one that is
understandable too. They do not like that their money, [] is used in
advertising efforts. No problem with the production of documentation, as
we do now, thats fine. But a strong PR policy they do not like that.
(RDT Manager, 1999)

Figure 1 illustrates how this sequence of events can be analysed in terms

of single loop learning. Indeed the partnerships theories in use relating
to decision-making did not alter. There is a positive and reinforcing
relationship between limited individual power and informal decisionmaking, however, the negative impact this has on shared strategy
development is overlooked creating tensions that the partnership seems
unable to resolve.
The crisis that emerged culminated with the partnership managers
departure. However the partnership was then plunged into a three year
long vegetative period during which interim and permanent partnership
manager appointments lasted in some cases less than three months. No
significant progress could be achieved despite the involvement of
external consultants during that time.
So we went through all the classical throes and difficulties; or to avoid
problems, which was no better, we would have a soft consensus
[consensus mou in the original]; and in some cases, because we went
through very difficult times, we retrenched, the network would operate
without direction. [] At a particularly difficult time, we accepted the
principle of outside intervention, in order to analyse the way we
functioned. Given the situation, the work was more of a diplomatic and
political nature than of a technical one. Our mode of operation was not at
stake, the issues were related to the personalities of those involved in the
group, and sub-groups. It was about conflicts of interest, a whole range
of things a very classical set up. [] A soft consensus is what
pleases nobody but satisfies everyone, knowing that no advances are

made on the topic at hand. [] One agrees to the minimum, nothing is

gained but one does not go backwards either. At some points in time, this
consensus mou delayed significantly a range of improvements. (DRRT
Chief Executive, 1999)
The partnership eventually overcame paralysis. Some of the factors that
triggered change included the late appointment of another partnership
manager, but also the appointment of a new chair for the Comit des
Industriels, an advisory board of private sector mangers involved in the
management of the partnership. However, the true catalyst for change in
Rhne-Alpes was the open recognition of the so-called gang of four as
the ultimate movers and shakers and the source of policy development in
the region. The associated double loop learning sequence experienced
within the partnership is illustrated in figure 2.
The frequent use of the expression gang of four in interviews denotes a
progressive institutionalisation of their group as governing elite and
source of policy making in the region.
Then started the vicissitudes of marriage between the State
(represented by the DRRT for technological research related issues; by
the DRIRE for industry related issues, the ANVAR, which is one of our
public sector bodies responsible for innovation and the Region. We have
had to get to know each other, to learn to work together, to define a
common strategy. This indeed created the gang of four. (DRRT Chief
Executive, 1999)


At a political level, in Rhne-Alpes, the entire civil service, (so the DRRT,
the DRIRE, the Region, and the ANVAR) shares the same analysis. As a
result, all potential sources of funding for economic development
structures share the same strategies, so these structures are piloted.
This is important for the good operation of the network. I believe that the
political consensus on these issues was in my view critical to the success
of this initiative (Senior Conseil Regional Manager, 1999)
This is a caricature, but it shows well our willingness to work together.
When we meet around the table (This happens frequently between the
ANVAR, the DRIRE, the DRRT and the Region) We do not always
have converging views. Our [ministerial] affiliations are different too. We
also have specific {institutional} objectives. Nonetheless this enables us
to have a debate and a common understanding of key policy
orientations. (Anvar Deputy Chief Executive , 1999)
The open and explicit recognition of this governing elite reaffirmed their
regional leadership and the significance of each member institution,
whilst placing them on a level playing field. The shift of emphasis from
the traditional model where one organisation dominates within its clearly
defined policy field, to a model where a governing elite dominates
regional policy making facilitated these organisations refocus on the
generation of a shared regional technology transfer policy. It also made
their institutional struggle for leadership redundant, replacing it with a
struggle to belong to the governing elite. As a result, partners in
Prsence Rhne-Alpes were able to nurture their tacit norm of informal

decision making, while accepting to share power and jointly generate

policy as illustrated in figure 2.





Figure 2: Institutionalising the Governing Elite

As indicated in earlier extracts from empirical data, within this redefined

environment partnership decision-making is seen as a coalition building
exercise and a political game. One where partners have grown to accept
that the majoritys view should prevail as long as those with diverging
views are given the opportunity to sway their partners. The starting
position seems to be the articulation of a debate.
Nowadays, you go and see people and tell them: this is what they want
to do, what do you think? This is really powerful, I believe it is a
fundamental achievement (DRRT Chief Executive, 1999)
This is a possible development. We did not do anything about it, not
because it is a source of conflict, but because it remains a debate within

the partnership. It is about asking ourselves whether we could extend

the use of the PTR [technology transfer grant], and what would the
necessary conditions to do so We are asking whether this grant for
technology could be turned into something, which would be addressing
economic issues as well. At the moment I have no definite answer to this
question. The debate can be included in our assessment of demand,
small firms needs and the adequacy of supply. (Anvar Deputy Chief
Executive, 1999)
As a result of this double loop learning process, it seems that the
partnerships collaborative working practices have become embedded in
each of the partners organisational routines. Indeed some interviewees
argue that even though individual leaders may change, the collaborative
work ethic and current emphasis on key individuals as members of an
elite will be maintained, although the latter may be a source of fragility for
partnership sustainability:
People will change of course, there may be a number of things that will
evolve, but I believe that the underpinning structure is embedded. We
can not go back, we have to work in this way. [] I refer to classical
issues associated with group dynamics, we were not accustomed to
these in the French civil service. [] We have had to talk, take time, I
believe that today much depends on people, because of that,
collaborative work also remains fragile (DRRT Chief Executive, 1999)


9.6 Conclusions
The findings outlined above are in line with the analysis of some French
researchers, who investigated the relationship between informal
networking and formal partnering in order to enhance our understanding
of the reasons why formal partnering seems to be resisted in some
instances. Brachet (1995) argues that the problems organisations (and
their representatives) experience, when working in partnership, do not
result from a lack of skill but from the rigidity that formalisation imposes
upon them. According to Brachet, civil servants, and other economic
development actors, have always relied on networking and partnering
when confronted with issues that can not be tackled through traditional
hierarchical means (Brachet, 1995 pp. 102):
As soon as hierarchical decision-making fails; civil servants at all levels
engage in lateral networking with politicians or professionals. Therefore
partnership is by no means a new phenomenon.

When relied upon as a

dominant mode of operation within the public sector, partnership is

equivalent to surfacing and legitimising existing governance systems that
already underpin power in local political and administrative systems. This
is one of very reasons why there is much concern and resistance towards
this form of working
The difference between informal reliance on networking and the
establishment of a formal partnership is that the latter requires an open
and shared recognition of lateral sources of power. Such formalisation
can, in turn, become a source of contention, and may generate rivalry. In

the context of informal networking, these sources of tension would be

regulated by the flexible adjustment of alliances between individuals and
by the fluid social, cultural and institutional learning that occurs as
networks evolve as shown by (Clergeau, Detchessahar, & Quinio, 2000).
Such adjustment and flexibility, as well as the fluidity of network
membership, disappear or are diminished, as a result of partnership
formalisation. This may be one of the paradoxical situations that arise
when formalisation occurs for policy delivery purposes: the type of
benefits sought through partnering may be less likely to be achieved.
The analysis of Prsence Rhne-Alpes suggests that although it had
strong values and norms, rooted in its history, these proved at times
detrimental to Prsence Rhne-Alpess effective operation as a
collaborative organisation. The first partnership managers departure and
the turmoil that resulted slowly brought together key decision makers in
technology transfer. This formed the basis for their progressive
establishment (and increased recognition by regional economic
development stakeholders) as the governing elite in the region. In
Rhne-Alpes the presence of such an elite (with clear -albeit tacit- rules
for decision making) facilitated significantly partnership smooth
operational functioning. This in turn meant that negotiations over
operational objectives, partnership strategy (or meta-strategy) and even
regional policy making became opportunities to exert influence and
collective power as opposed to instances where some of the
collaborating organisations would individually need to relinquish power


and authority. This has implications for research on boundary spanning

and collaborative leadership.
In this particular case study, it can be argued that collaborative
leadership was effectively the remit of a regional governing lite, as
opposed to being the outcome of a partnership managers skilful handling
of collaborative relationships. As such governance elites may need to be
analysed as agents of collaborative leadership and their propensity to
strategically steer partnerships and not simply for the contextual role they
play in the operation of these partnerships.
This study shows that once membership of the elite is accepted and
openly recognised, the development of joint policies may be seen as an
operational challenge rather than a strategic issue that may threaten the
existence of one partner or another. This suggests that the study and
evaluation of collaborative leadership and of boundary spanning
(Huxham & Vangen, 2000; Coe, 1988; Williams, 2002; Sullivan &
Skelcher, 2002) (often associated with the specific skills that partnership
managers need to nurture) may be strongly affected by the governance
context within which it is conducted. The sometimes prescriptive nature
of these discussions may need to be moderated by considerations
associated with the formation, operation and membership of elite
structures of governance, as the latter can be considered as a necessary
condition for effective partnering and as agents of collaborative


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Chapter 10
Developing brainwork in the knowledge economy

Dr. Ton Bruining

10.1 Introduction
It is a generally accepted idea that the Dutch economy has to change
from an industrial economy into a knowledge economy. But that
metamorphosis is not a matter of course. Until recently their were big
concerns. Evaluations showed that Europe arreared the United States
and that the Netherlands were well down as a knowledge economy in
Europe. This chapter focuses on how the possibilities to wrench the
stagnate knowledge economy with brainwork, and is based on studies
KPC Group did in 2003 and 2005.
First I will discuss the development of the knowledge economy, the
principal recommendations to stimulate the knowledge economy. Next I
will discuss our premises and research design. Then I will present some
of our results with an extra focus on the educational sector. Furthermore I
will elaborate what the challenges are for Human Resources
Development specialists. Finally I will come up with challenges for future

10.2 Dutch Knowledge economy far behind

Over the years several Dutch trend studies have showed that with the
transformation of the Dutch economy into a knowledge economy the
Netherlands fell behind (EZ 2002 SER, 2003, Nauta et al. 2003). In 2002
research showed that the potential of the Dutch labour market seemed to
erode because the knowledge of the highly educated labour force was
not sufficiently kept up by means of education and training (EZ, 2002).
Nauta et al (2003) showed that there is more the matter with the Dutch
knowledge economy, than going trough a bad patch. They showed that
the Dutch knowledge economy is bogged down because the Dutch have
lost the art to innovate. This seemed to be a result of low investments in
education and training, low investments in corporate innovation
programs, a missing innovation policy and an abundance of garrulous
consultation bodies and administrations.
Employers and scholars worked out an action plan for a better knowledge
strategy and a burgeoning of the knowledge economy (VNO/NCW et al.
2003), consulting firms formulated recommendations based on their
research focussed on corporations that profited from investments in
knowledge (Kok et al, 2003) en The Social and Economic Council of the
Netherlands came with recommendation regarding learning and
knowledge sharing.
It is striking that all these recommendation tend to coordinating
structures, financial criteria and measurements, improvement of research
and education, the support of starting small businesses in high tech and

the recruitment of foreign knowledge workers. The recommendations

hardly pay attention to put the capacities of incumbent personnel to better
use. Earlier, van Aken et al. (1997), based on their research Organiseren
van denkwerk [translated: Organising brainwork], argued that leadership
should put more effort into the development of knowledge workers, the
use of the brainpower and the repertoire of their brainwork. In 1997 the
main question of Van Aken et al. was: to which extend organisations use
the brainpower of their employees? They found that organisations
deployed only 60% of the brainpower in organisations and that managers
use their own brainpower more (75%) than that they call for the
brainpower of their staff (60%). In 2003 KPC Group did a sequel with Van
Aken and Jrgens. In 2005 KPC Group followed this up and looked into
the results of the 2003 survey, focussing on the educational sector
(Bruining & Sanders, 2005). Based on our results again we
recommended with great emphasis the development of brainwork in
organisations and more specifically in schools.
For this contribution we work out our underlying premises and models,
we will explain our research approach and share the major results.

10.3 Knowledge production through brainwork

Since Drucker it has become a custom to take knowledge as a forth
production factor in a burgeoning knowledge society. We followed up on
Marx, who pointed at three central production factors: resources, capital
and labour. In other words: things, money and people. Celebrating
knowledge as the fourth production factor ignores the essential changes

in the nature of labour. We protest to that. We argue that the passage to

a knowledge society is connected to the changing nature of labour. From
an emphasis on muscle power in the agrarian society, to driving power in
the industrial society to eventually thinking power in the knowledge
society. Knowledge is in people and only through their brainpower
knowledge can become productive via processes of development,
storage and dissemination. As a consequence, we pledge in our work to
acknowledge workers as knowledge workers, to give them the space to
think and to develop the workplace as a learning environment wherein
they can develop their thinking power (Bruining, 2000a/2000b; Van Aken,
Bruining, Jrgens & Sanders, 2003: Bruining & Sanders 2005).

10.4 Knowing employees instead of shelved knowledge

In the last decade the advocates of the knowledge economy, knowledge
intensive firms, and knowledge management often used definitions of
knowledge from an information paradigm in which the transformation of
data into knowledge is conceived as a hierarchy of stadia of treatment.
Data is thought to be transformed into information, information is thought
to be transformed into knowledge and knowledge is thought to be
transformed into wisdom. Knowledge productivity has often been limited
to a problem of logistics and control. To our opinion is must be conceived
as an issue of labour and of leadership. We think that the deployment of
information technology can only help with respect to the visible
knowledge while added value evolves via personal knowledge and
expertise. That is knowledge and expertise in the sense of the integration
of knowing and being, as an integration of knowledge, capability and

attitude. We tend to think that the work processes in a knowledge

intensive organisation highly draw on the input of knowing employees.
Differently put, the more knowledge work and the lesser manual work
and machine work is performed the more knowledge productive the
organisation is. Knowledge work is brainwork. We think that the
information approach to knowledge is a stand in the way, because that
approach neglects the brainpower of people necessary to deploy

10.5 Managing thinking labour

Knowledge work can be viewed as brainwork needed for the effective
development of new knowledge (production) or the smart use of existing
knowledge (re-production). In this sense production is to reproduction as
organising is to reorganising, respectively the creation of the new and the
re-ordering of the existing. Knowledge management is intended to
facilitate these work processes and have them as efficient and effective
as possible. It is not about the (re)production of knowledge as such, but
about the deployment of knowledge in function of the organisational
goals. Knowledge productivity is a measure for the effectivity and
efficiency of these work processes. Actually brainpower productivity
would be a better term, but knowledge productivity seems to be an
established term. To finish our argument, managing a production process
is about managing productive labour, managing knowledge processes is
managing thinking labour.


Our arguments imply the following:

High knowledge productivity is necessary for the success of

labour organisations in a knowledge economy.

Good knowledge management leads to a permanent improvement

of knowledge productivity.

Effective leading brainwork is a necessity for successful

knowledge management.

Insights in the thinking talents, the brainpower of people is a

necessary condition for effective leadership of brainwork.

10.6 Whole brain thinking

How do you lead brainwork? To find an answer to this question we used
the Whole brain thinking model van Herrmann (1996). Herrmann
developed his model as an assessment tool. On the basis of a brain
metaphor Herrmann distinguishes four thinking styles. A-style dominated
people work by applying logic to what they perceive as facts.
The A- style is quantitative and analytical. The prime urge of B-style
dominated people is to keep what is going on under their control. The Bstyle is orderly and sequential. C-style dominated people are acutely
sensitive to other peoples feelings and instantly aware of changes in
atmosphere and mood. The C-style is interpersonal and emotive. D-style
dominated people take their own original approach to everything. The Dstyle is holistic and intuitive. Some people have a preference for one
style, most people have a preference for two or three styles and a few

people are whole brain thinkers and have preference for all four styles. It
is important to note that there is no direct relation between a thinking
style and performance and that there is no right set of preferences.
Nevertheless we presume that organisations, team and individuals
function best when they are able to deploy different thinking styles.
We use the Herrmann model because we found it useful to make
analyses on different levels: macro economically, within organisations
and teams and on a personal level.
Coffield et al. (2004) evaluated thirteen different and influential thinking
style and learning style models. The Herrmann model came out
reasonable well.

10.7 Knowledge activities

To help organisations with the question: How do we make better use of
the brainpower of our people?, our consultancy firm KPC Group used the
Whole Brain Thinking model and developed an extended model. The
main though behind this model is that knowledge productivity concerns
both the development of new knowledge and the smart use of existing
knowledge. Combining the four thinking styles Herrmann distinguishes to
these two processes of knowledge productivity leads us to distinguish
eight knowledge activities Knowledge activities are knowledge
productive work processes bound to a specific thinking style.




A-style (logical and

Researching: analysing

Listing: taking stock of


problems, engaging in

existing knowledge

challenging experiences,
testing solutions
B-style (organised and Directing: developing

Controlling: explicitate


work processes, products

knowledge in instructions

and services

and procedures

C-style (interpersonal

Networking: building

Equiping: making

and emotive)

communities, stimulating

knowledge usable for

each other and learn form employees, facilitating

each other

learning in the
workplace, education
and training

D-style (holistic and

Creating: thinking outside Activate: giving


the box

employees the
discretional space to use
knowledge in the right
time, the right place and
the right way


These eight knowledge activities are referred to with eight verbs to

emphasise that the concern human labour.
We think that organisations, team and individuals can use this model to
describe, analyse and evaluate their own thinking activities. With this
model they are able to make a diagnosis of the status quo, albeit a brain
scan of their work. Leaders, managers, supporting staff en knowledge
workers can detect the blind spots and overlapping activities and look for
opportunities to develop new activities or to relate different activities.

10.8 Survey
Our research was a sample survey among top management, middle
management and staff in four branches: industry, service firms, public
service and the educational sector. In these sectors work approximately
6.9 million employees, split up to the four branches: industry 21%,
service firms 48%, public service 25% and education 6%.
We developed a questionnaire based on the 1997 research, by Van
Aken, in addition to the 1997 questionnaire we added questions
concerning the eight knowledge activities we have distinguished.
From our databases we drew a sample of 3200 organisations. These
were approached telephonically, using an at random method employees
were asked to cooperate up to the moment the previously defined quota
per branche and per hierarchical level were filled. The telephonic

invitation yielded to 1578 soft pledges. We aimed at a minimum respons

of 700 questionnaires. Based on the respons in 1997 we estimated that
1500 soft pledges were necessary.
We had a respons of 42,2 %, which resulted in 657 valid questionnaires,
nicely divided over the different branches and levels.
Instead of encephalograms
Instead of using enencephalograms to determine how much of peoples
brainpower is utilized, we asked the respondents to give us an estimate
of the percentage of their personal thinking capacity that is actually
deployed by their organisation. We also asked what percentage of the
total available brainpower in the organisation is actually used. Maybe this
figure is more important than the previous, because herein lies a
performance indicator for the organisation. In addition to that we asked
questions about peoples working environment, their behaviour in that
environment, their thinking preferences and the preferences for different
kinds of workprocesses in the organisation. Furthermore we asked about
barriers for the deployment of brainpower in the organisation.
In our 2003 research we have found that, in comparison with 1997
organisations almost the same appeal on the brainpower of their
employees. We found a marginal increase, from 71% to 72%. This
means that there is still a cool 30% unused. Perhaps its not suprising
that topmanager think that the biggest appeal is made on their

brainpower (78%), followed by linemanagers (72%) and staff at a slight

distance. In comparison with 1997 we found that the deployment of
brainpower shows an upward trend. Employees on average estimated in
2003 that about 71% of the total available brainpower of their
organisation is used. This is a considerable increase of the average of
60% Van Aken ea. found in 1997. Apperently organisations in 2003 were
better capable to activate the available brainpower as the were before. In
case of the topmanagers and in the public sector we found the biggest
rise. As a motive for the meagre appeal on the brainpower at hand the
respondents pointed at (1) the pressure of time, (2) poor communication,
(3) hierarchy, (4) rules and regulations and (5) their job.
In the following situations we ascertain that the respondents are more
positive about the percentage of brainpower that is actually called upon:

Vertical mobility, situations and environments that offer

opportunities for career development.

Challenging jobs, where employees feel challenged.

A rich and stimulating environment.

Pride about the company.

It is notable that the appeal on the brainpower relates to contextual

factors. Against our expectations we found hardly any connection
between an appeal on peoples brain capacity and personal qualities
such as knowing where validated information can be found to solve
problems, trust in the persons one works with and the ability to cope with
unexpected situations.

We presented 15 possible barriers to call forth peoples brainpower in

organisations. The table below shows the Top Five barriers for the
deployment of brainpower in 2003 compared to 1997.
1997 2003 Barrier

pressure of time

Lack of correct information


Poor company policy

Lack of skills


Lack of training

Table 1: Top Five barriers for the deployment of brainpower in 2003

Our research showed that a stimulating working environment, the

acceptance of breaking through established patterns of thinking and
participation are important success factors for knowledge productivity.
Based on our results in 2003 we concluded that the eight different
knowledge activities we distinguished are discriminating enough and
corrolate with success factors for knowledge productivity.
In figure 1 we show the thinking preferences of the respondents in 2003
in comparison with the results of 1997. From this we conclude that both
in 1997 and 2003 the strongest preference is for rational thinking. This
comparison shows that compared to 1997 the preference for relational

thinking shows a considerable rise and that the preference for this
thinking mode no longer falls behind. This figure also shows that despite
a slight increase innovative thinking stays behind and that the preference
for control thinking compared to 1997 is decreased. The lagging behind
of preferences for innovative thinking raises concerns. On the other hand
the growth of the preference for relational thinking looks good. That the
preference for control thinking showed a slight easing is no cause for
concern because an exertive preference for control thinking is probably
incompatible in an era of increased turbulence and complexity.

Figure 1: Profiles 1997-2003


In 2003 we asked the respondent which knowledge activities were most

in character with their organisation. The results show that smart use of
existing knowledge corresponds with D-style activities, shows less
attention for A-style and C-style activities and that there is hardly any
preference fore B-style activities. In case of timely development of new
knowledge there is a preference for B-style activities, less attention for Cstyle activities and the least attention for A-tyle and D style activities.

Figure 2: Profiles reproduction and production 2003


The data suggest that the production of knowledge is more a cerebral

activity, while the reproduction of knowledge seems to be based more on
"gut feeling".
Focus on the educational sector
In 2005 we revisited our data with a focus on the educational sector. The
first observation we did was that although there is a lot of complaining in
the Dutch educational sector there seem to be no big differences with
other branches. Of course this is no excuse not to look for improvements.
In our re-inspection of the 2003 data we compared the different branches
of the educational system. This made clear that with regard to employee
satisfaction and the occurrence of a variety of knowledge activities
primary education shows better results then secondary education,
vocational education and higher education. We think that the communal,
integral character and the small scale of the school organisations
contributes to these results. We think that it is a challenge for the big
educational institutes to develop small scale environments. Furthermore
we have found that in comparison with other branches the educational
sector has to deal more with rules and regulations. On the other hand the
data shows that employees resist this when they feel necessary and
contravene in interest of the school. We think that a reduction of rules
and regulations contributes to the development of a stimulating and open
With respect to short-term improvement of the knowledge economy it is
worrying that vocational education and higher education in comparison

with primary education struggles more with the deployment of thinking

power and the development of knowledge activities. Nevertheless,
despite the fact that many employees experience lots of missed
opportunities they consider their school a learning organisation. Is hunger
the best sauce or do they mix-up the primary process with their
professional environment?

10.9 HRD-professionals, brainpower and knowledge

What do our results mean for HRD professionals? In the first place the
relationship the respondents see between the lack of training and skills
on the one hand and the restrictions this puts on the deployment of
brainpower on the other hand must concern HRD professionals. They
have to convince management that a progressive learning policy and
investments in training and development are of great importance to
knowledge intensive organisations. The HRD professionals themselves certainly in times of recession we seem to face in 2008 - must
demonstrate creativity and innovative thinking to persuade management
to invest in their personnel and the thinking force. Schramade (2003)
presented eight ideas to deal with learning in meagre years.
Although zero-investment in training and development (1) is a cheap
option, in the long run, according it does harm the organisation.
Retrenchment prompted by a shareholders perspective (2) is short term
thinking. Training and development increases performance. Furthermore
free-riding organisations (3) are not an employees first choice. A more

sensible approach is the development of business cases that show a

return on investment in training and development (4). Because public
service firms are not financially driven other criteria for the performance
must be developed (5). It might be worthwhile to look for a selection of
learning projects and targeted investment in the development of
personnel instead of a bureaucratic overall approach. Also alliances with
other companies (6) might be fruitful in several ways, the engagement of
local and low-cost providers might be advantageous and external funding
such as EU subsidies may be found. Besides that, the development of
the workplace as a learning environment (7) might be cheaper than
formal training and Human Resoruces Development policies build up
from off-the job programs. Alternative approaches for the development of
personnel (8), such as the cultivation of learning communities,
communities of practice and communities of enquires might be very

10.10 Discussion
We find it worrying that there is a discrepancy between the perception of
topmanagers and frontline workers with respect to the idea these
employees have regarding the appeal on their brainpower. More than the
frontline workers topmanagers have the idea that their brainpower is
used. We expect from HRD professionals that they make serious efforts
to bridge that difference and to expand the total appeal on the brainpower
of all the employees.


We think that there are possibilities to improve the connection between

topmanagement and frontline personnel, between so called
governmental intelligence and frontline intelligence and to foster cocreation by topmanagement and frontline employees.
HRD professionals can contribute by pulling down the barriers for the
deployment of brainpower. To bring this about they can start a dialogue
concerning the pressure of time, contribute to the development of work
processes and tune the information flows, improve policymaking
processes and the development of state-of-the art Human Resource
Development programs.
Our research has shown that environmental factors influence the
perception of people concerning the deployment of their brainpower. We
expect from HRD professionals that they put effort in the development of
stimulating working environments, with attention for vertical mobility,
challenging jobs, and corporate culture. The development of a corporate
academy might be suitable approach to improve the brainpower of the
organisation when it provides in services to facilitate the development of
a learning culture, the development of work processes and the
development of the staff competencies in line with those developments
and finally open learning environments such as communities of practice,
action learning programs and benchmark research (Bruining, 2000). On a
micro level the collaboration of employees with different preferences
might be facilitated. Herrmann (1996) shows that people with a certain
preference have difficulties to communicate with people with other
preferences. Assessments, training programs, teamwork and personnel

coaching can make people aware of their preferences and aware of the
possibilities to change barriers based on differences into complementary
power sources. Preceding their efforts to create knowledge intensive
work processes and learning environments we think that it is worthwhile
to make a diagnose of the thinking preferences in the organisation, the
preferences for certain knowledge activities, the connection between
different styles and the occurrence of blind spots. In short, we think that
there is a lot of brainwork to be done to enhance the use of peoples
brain in organisation, to improve the performance of organisations and to
boost the knowledge economy.

10.11 Future research

One of the major challenges for us is to follow up on our research and
expand it to a longitudinal project. To realise this we suggest to deploy
our questionnaire again as a follow up on the 1997 and 2003 research
projects. A second challenge is to develop our repertoire to improve
organisations as environments for learning and knowledge (re)
production. It might be worthwhile to focus in a new research project on
the differences between knowledge reproduction and knowledge
production. A third challenge is to find starting points to improve the
connectivity between different thinking preferences and knowledge


Bruining, T. (2000) Toegevoegde waarde van corporate universities.
Opleiding & Ontwikkeling, jrg. 13, nr. 9, pp. 7-10.
Bruining, T. & A. Sanders (2005) Haal meer kennis uit je school. sHertogenbosch: KPC Groep
Aken, T. van, Th. Camps & B. Jrgens (1997) Organiseren van
denkwerk, return on thinking; Van Gorcum, Assen.
Aken, T. van, T. Bruining, B. Jrgens & A. Sanders (2003) Kennis maken
met Denkwerk, return on thinking reviseted, Lemma, Utrecht.
Herrmann, N. (1996) The whole brain business book. McGraw-Hill, New
Kok, G., S. Jongedijk & J. Troost (2003) KPMGs European Knowledge
Management Survey 2002/2003. KPMG Knowledge Advisory Services.
Ministerie van Economische Zaken (2002) Toets op het
concurrentievermogen 2002; Den Haag; te bestellen via
Nauta, F. & J. van den Steenhoven (2003): Tijd om te kiezen,
kennismonitor 2003; Stichting Nederland Kennisland, Amsterdam, te
downloaden/bestellen via


Schramade, P. (2003) Opleiden en leren ten tijde van economische

stagnatie. Opleiding & Ontwikkeling, jrg. 16, nr. 5, pp. 31-35.
SER (2002) Het nieuwe leren. Den Haag.
SER (2003) Advies kennis maken, kennis delen. Den Haag.
VNO-NCW, KNAW, NWO, VSNU (2003) Kennis, kennis, kennis.
Kennisstrategie 2010 actieplan. VNO/NCW, Den Haag.
Weggeman, M. (1997): Kennismanagement. Scriptum, Schiedam.
Wierdsma, A. (1999) Co-creatie van verandering. Eburon, Delft.


Chapter 11
The Effective Change Leader: Pilot, Pedagogue or

Dr. Ole Hinz

The present chapter is part of a comprehensive research project focusing
on how supervisors who successfully implement complex change
projects initiated by senior management, view the project, the
organisation, and their own role. The study has resulted in a PhD
dissertation entitled The Effective Change Leader: Pilot, Pedagogue or
Politician? A Survey of how Supervisors Ascribe Meaning to Successful
Implementations of Change Projects Initiated by Senior Management.
The ambition has also been to chart how supervisors, their department
heads and senior management may make use of this understanding to
promote change projects initiated by senior management.
The objective of the present chapter is to present the most important
findings of the study in an easily accessible and viable form, primarily
directed towards practicians. Readers who are interested in detailed
theoretical and methodological explanations and/or data analyses are
referred to the dissertation proper.


The study is based on phenomenological theories, more specifically

Husserl (1997, 1999), Zahavi (2001), Schtz (1972, 1976, 1982) Schtz
& Luckmann (2003). Their theories stress the importance of our
subjective experience to the way we interact with the world. The world in
which a person acts, is the world he subjectively experiences. Thus, the
data that this chapter is based on and refers to, are leaders accounts of
their own subjective experiences, their world of perception and meaning.
In addition to phenomenological basic theories, the study also makes use
of learning theory, as described in e.g. Piaget (1971, 1972), Illeris (1999),
Gagn (1970).
The empirical data used in the study have been generated from three
Danish workplaces: the Odense Steel Shipyard, the Danisco Sugar
Factory in Assens, and the county hospital in Gentofte. The study was
commenced in 2002 and finalised in 2005.
A few definitions are in order: The term management is used to denote
the executive board and/or senior management in large corporations
including functional and divisional directors. The term department head
covers middle management levels in large enterprises. Department
heads usually have supervisors reporting to them who themselves are
often in charge of frontline personnel. The term leader denotes all the
mentioned leadership levels.


As most of the analysed data have been generated from Odense Steel
Shipyard, a leader will generally be referred to as he. My apologies to
female readers!

11.1 Introduction
In the course of my several years of serving as a consultant of change
management and organisational development in major Danish
businesses I have often been struck by how different results different
leaders of comparable areas have achieved when implementing change
projects. At the same time, it is evident that the ability to implement
change projects successfully is a unique competitive parameter: It is
difficult to copy, and change is becoming more and more common.
Apparently leadership is increasingly turning into change leadership.
I have also been struck by the fact that traditionally, the bulk of leadership
research has focused on leadership actions and leadership style, and
only to a very limited degree on how supervisors perceive the project and
their own role in it, the leaders world of perception, and how important
this is to a successful implementation.
The present chapter offers a model identifying experience- or meaning
patterns that are characteristic of leaders who successfully implement
management-initiated change projects.


11.2 Dimensions in the Change Leaders Meaning Universe

Leadership theory will always be explicitly or implicitly rooted in
organisational theory, (Borum 1997). Our conception of the leaders role
and the conditions he operates under, depends on how the organisation
functions. At the basis of change leadership theories we find a wide
variety of organisational theories.
Scott (1992) distinguishes between three conceptions of organisations:
Organisations as rational systems, as natural systems and as open
systems. The rational emphasises the target-oriented and formal
perspective, whereas the natural system attaches more importance to the
dynamic and informal perspective, and the open system focuses on the
organisations strong dependence on the surrounding world. Morgan
(1997) and Borum (1997) describe a very broad spectrum of
organisational metaphors.
Three characteristics are prominent in these descriptions:
1. Organisational theory assumptions range from mechanistic systems
following a causal logic to complete chaos universes in which
everything can happen and no one can predict the consequences of a
specific action.
2. The underlying view of man ranges from man as a predictable,
reactive, programmed, and programmable set of competencies to
man as being capable of making free choices based on independent
value systems.

3. The conception of the leaders role in the organisation ranges from

the leader being determined by specific extraneous or internal
individual forces or by a chaotic dynamism, or being a sovereign
power capable of changing the world to being.
This points to a fundamental dimension: From mechanistic introversion
and predictability to emergent, unpredictable openness. This dimension
of emergence is one of the two basic dimensions in the model presented
in this chapter. It goes without saying that emergence in consequence of
the phenomenological perspective of the research project must be
viewed as the emergence experienced by the actor.
The second fundamental dimension is the space perceived by an agent
to be at his disposal or available to him when implementing a change
task. Interviews of supervisors in the case companies show that the
leader attaches great importance to the space, the scope, the room for
manoeuvre that he perceives having at his disposal or as being
available as a precondition for a successful implementation. The space
dimension will be differentiated in the following section into a series of
ideal types: The five Ps.
The model generated through the aforementioned study is formed by the
two constituent dimensions emergence and space. Both dimensions
vary; from high to low emergence and from wide to narrow space.
Thus, a leader or employee may perceive himself as being in a situation
of low emergence and narrow space: The situation is transparent and
predictable, and he experiences being expected to carry out in minute

detail the implementation as instructed by his superior. Or he may find his

task unclear and unpredictable, and with a wide scope for him to do what
he thinks is best: high emergence and wide space. He may experience
an unclear and unpredictable implementation task in which he is
expected to follow procedures to the letter: High emergence, narrow
space, or he may experience a clear and predictable task in which he is
allowed more or less to decide for himself how he wants to do it: Low
emergence, wide space.

11.3 The Dimension of Space Translated into Ideal types

General Remarks about the 5 Ps
The above mentioned experience dimension of space can be illustrated
by five ideal types each representing a position on the dimension.
When a person performs an action with the purpose of realising his
objective, he experiences boundaries: not all objectives can be realised.
Will and conditions always form a complementary, dynamic unity, and a
typology based on one of these categories will in a given situation imply a
position in the other. The ideal types described below categorise these
perceived restrictions into themes.
The five ideal types may be described as follows:
The Postman
I am a postman: I am only a tiny link in a very strong hierarchy. I see my
job as a loyal postman to deliver or implement messages in the form they

have been given to me. Deviations or omissions will be regarded, both by

myself and by my superior, as failures. If I were to propose, or even carry
out, the implementation or parts of it in a different way which I would
consider to be more appropriate than I have been told to do it, this
would constitute a provocation and be met with strong opposition.
Keywords for the postman are hierarchy and obedience.
In the space dimension this type is characterised by experiencing an
extremely narrow space.
The Pilot
I am a pilot: Captains of aircrafts have ultimate responsibility for the
successful implementation of a project. The pilot needs to follow
procedures, follow the instructions given by the tower, but ultimately the
pilot himself is responsible. His responsibility also extends to deviating
from procedures in unforeseen circumstances when he deems the
situation calls for it. In my job as implementing leader my job resembles
that of a pilot. It is ultimately my responsibility that the change project is
implemented the way my superior wants it. That is why I have to deviate
from or adapt the concept to local conditions if I find it necessary in
special circumstances. Keywords for the pilot are procedures and
In the space dimension this type is characterised by experiencing limited
space. Emphasis here is slightly shifted from the hierarchy to the acting
responsible leader or employee.

The Pedagogue
I am a pedagogue: Change implies learning. Consequently, my job in
relation to implementation is to facilitate learning processes. My
fundamental belief is that people can and want to learn what you ask of
them, but there is such a thing as difficult and dull students.
Within my area of responsibility and the existing framework of the project
I can dispose freely, i.e. I can decide which means I want to use to make
the implementation a success internally, as long as I get there.
Whereas the postman and the pilot emphasise the hierarchy and the
acting, responsible person respectively, the pedagogue stresses the
interaction between leader and employee. Cooperative skills training and
coping with resistance are some of the themes that will appear in
connection with this perspective. Keywords for the pedagogue are
dialogue and motivation.
The space available to the pedagogue for interpretation, decision and
action is markedly wider than is the case of the postman or the pilot.
In the space dimension this type is characterised by experiencing having
the freedom to choose his own methods within the given, overall
The Politician
I am a politician. In my experience, I and others have different, often
conflicting, interests that they go far to look after and protect. The tools

they use, are mainly a kind of often informal negotiations, coalitionforming, manipulation, pressure and persuasion.
I enjoy a large degree of acceptance from the system to implement
changes the way I find best. If and when I make adjustments to the
concept, I may, however, encounter resistance from others, both
colleagues and superiors. The system does not present me with very
fixed, formal restrictions to my room for manoeuvre, but specific
negotiation results and constellations of power and interests restrict the
options open to me.
For leaders identifying themselves with this ideal type, conflicts among
different agents motives, which may also include other objectives than
the business official objectives, become more visible than is the case of
the preceding types, where such forces are suppressed and handled
primarily within the individual. Keywords for the politician are negotiation
and tactics.
The Poet
I am a poet: Daily life in an organisation undergoing changes is
unpredictable. I do have responsibilities, but I cannot control things. It is
impossible for me to manage in the traditional sense. Deviations from
plans, new opportunities and sudden threats appear out of the blue.
Surprise is an everyday occurrence. One has to be able to cope,
evaluate each situation as it occurs, and revise ones options and
actions. As a leader, I can apparently only do little things in a short-term

perspective, but it is part of my world picture that even small events and
actions can have important long-term effects.
All the options of deciding on and finalising the implementation that I can
imagine, are available to me. I can even alter the implementandum and
adapt it to the reality of my department, but of course the reactions of my
head of department and my colleagues would be difficult to predict.
As a leader I am not superfluous. If a system, or a group of workers, is
left to their own devices, development may cease or turn in unpredictable
directions which is not exactly what is needed in the implementation of
changes initiated by senior management. As a poet leader I can
contribute to meeting objectives, even though it may be in unforeseen
Keywords for the poet are freedom and imagination. And just as many
great classical works of music were composed as urgent orders of
princes, the freedom and imagination of the poet must be applied under
the everyday stressed conditions of the business.
In the space dimension this type is characterised by experiencing
unlimited space.
All of the leaders involved in the study were able to identify with one or
more of the described ideal types.
At the same time, however, they found that employees perceive a given
space in relation to their leader. The above descriptions are thus to be

interpreted at two levels: first, as the set of expectations perceived by the

leader held by the top manager and the department head towards
himself; second, as the expectations that the leader perceives that the
employees hold towards himself. Thus in the following section, the term
actor is used for both these organisational roles.

11.4 Emergence, space and effective implementation

In order to be able to implement effectively, both leader and employee
must perceive a state of equilibrium between emergence and the
available space. A change which is perceived as transparent and without
unpredictable situations has low emergence and does not require much
room for manoeuvre. If it is a question of an updated computer program
requiring the operator to press F5 instead of the usual F3, the safest,
most convenient and most effective procedure will probably be to tell the
employee exactly what to do. However, if the change project entails that
the leader takes over responsibility of an extended area and new types of
tasks, partly involving new technology, and perhaps even a number of
new employees who do not speak the local language, who have no
special qualifications for the job, and who ask for a place to spread their
prayer mats a couple of times during the day, it is probably a good idea to
give the leader more freedom to act in his implementation of the
At the same time, in some situations and I will get back to this shortly
the leader needs to take the employees personal preference for
emergence and space into consideration: Both leaders and their

employees have basic personal preferences with respect to the degree of

emergence and width of space: we learn early in life, and throughout our
lives, how much unpredictability we want, and how narrow frameworks
we prefer to work in. These basic personal preferences vary with the
situation, meaning that in some contexts we want high unpredictability
and wide spaces; in other situations we prefer a high degree of security
and narrow spaces. Our preferences are always situational.

11.5 The theory outlined as a model

In the following model the two dimensions of emergence and space have
been combined. The diagonal line from Southwest to Northeast indicates
the optimal balance between them.

Emergence and space combined





Emergence leadership


Defensive accomodation
Distorting assimilation

Congruity leadership





On inspiration from Illeris and Piaget, the Northwest and Southeast areas
of the model contain a number of possible but inappropriate
consequences of implementation situations that are situated far from the
line of equilibrium.
The Southeast area shows a situation which is perceived as chaotically
incalculable and unpredictable, but in which the actor is expected to
follow given procedures and instructions to the letter. The risk is that the
actor does not perceive adherence to procedure as leading to the desired
result. Consequently, he may react by taking a defensive position and
use his creativity on defensive measures and sabotage (defensive
accommodation), or he may work to rule, well aware that he will be
hitting the iceberg (distorting assimilation). The third and fourth risks
shown in this area include both a decoupling: that the actor ignores the
expectations and directions of senior management, and powerlessness:
that the actor gives up, lays down his arms, and tries to follow the path of
least resistance.
The Northwest area illustrates a situation which is simple and transparent
and offers predictable consequences of actions, in which the organisation
possesses the necessary knowledge about rational action, the shortest
distance between A and B. However, this knowledge is not being applied.
Instead, the actor is allowed to invent his own solution to the problem.
In addition to the pedagogical purposes that may justify this situation, it
contains evident risks.


If several actors each invent their own solutions, there is a risk that the
business processes will be fragmented (disorganisation). Inventing the
wheel all over again implies a lot of wasted time (boredom), and a feeling
of meaninglessness may prevail (anomy).

11.6 Two Types of Change Leadership

The following description will put the relation between the leader and his
superior in brackets and focus on the relation between leader and
employee. In this relation the model demonstrates the leaders
experience of the employees experience of how much emergence and
how much space the change task is offering him.
Based on the above it can be concluded that, roughly stated, two change
leadership situations can be identified: situations of low emergence and
situations of high emergence.
These two types of situation require two different types of leadership,
which will be discussed in the following.
The Non-emergent Leadership Situation
The non-emergent situation contains fully-fledged response programmes,
one best way. Employees need to learn these response programmes,
and this gives rise to huge individual differences which can be
understood both as objectivist, i.e. as variations in the competence and
learning ability of different individuals, and subjectivist, as peoples wish

and willingness to obtain some degree of independence or more or fewer

instructions in relation to the change project.
Experience of low emergence may thus require the leader to differentiate
or individualise his leadership style.
Such a leadership style requires first and foremost that the leader is able
to empathise with the employees world of perception, his mental models,
including any limitations with respect to space and emergence that the
employee experiences in connection with the implementation of the
change project in question.
Secondly, the low emergent situation requires the leader to master a
wide repertoire of ideal type styles, primarily postman, pilot and
Thirdly, the situation requires that the leader, if necessary, takes the
space needed to be able to realise the appropriate repertoire. If the
leader finds that his superior gives him a space that is too narrow to
implement the task in the best possible way, he must have the ability and
the will to take the necessary space; he must be loyally disobedient.
In many cases a leader will be able to delegate tasks of different degrees
of emergence, thus giving people tasks that correspond to their
preferences. For example, he will often be able to divide complex tasks
into smaller units that some employees will find familiar and safe. And at
other times he will be able to delineate a wider or more narrow space for


an employee by the way he manages; this includes the degree of detail

he incorporates in directions, control etc.
As the implementation progresses, the employees world of perception,
and thus his preferences, will change. This happens both because a
certain experience changes when the viewpoint changes, and based on a
conceptual framework of learning theory: What in the early stages gave
rise to many surprises, ends up by being fully predictable. This type of
change may make it desirable for the leader to reorganise the work, e.g.
by reallocating tasks or giving directions in a new and different way.
Such approaches and related skills can undoubtedly be learned, and it
would be interesting to investigate whether the leadership development
market has the scope required for it. My immediate assessment is that
the market basically offers narrow concepts, whereas the findings of the
present study call for more width.
This means that traditional leadership functions such as control and
coordination have been overlaid by qualities such as empathy, flexibility
and latitude. The model also shows the specific context in which this is
As the leader in this context has to be able and willing to choose the type
of leadership ideal corresponding to his understanding of the employee's
world of perception, this leadership approach has been called congruity


The Emergent Leadership Situation

The emergent situation is characterised by the absence of response
programmes in the form of experience and learning results in the field of
the task in question. No relevant organisational learning has taken place.
As a result, neither employees nor leaders are able to anticipate what
kind of problems may arise or how to predict, prevent, or solve problems.
In this situation the leader does not know better, which means that
instruction is not feasible.
It follows from this that in situations with high emergence, the leader
plays a special part. The situation is shown in the Northeast area of the
model, where employees need to perceive a wide space.
In the emergent situation, the business needs employees that are able to
cope with emergence, non-linearity, surprise, unpredictability. The
situation calls for one single type of leadership. The leader is not required
to apply different leadership types according to the dimensions dealt with
here. All employees have to perceive a wide space. People who the
leader believes cannot or do not wish to cope with wide space, must be
screened out, not receive special leadership.
The situation requires that people get the space to identify problems and
test solutions as well as room for creativity and experimentation, and the
type of leadership should include letting them loose on the task and join
in. The task implies identifying problems, finding solutions and inventing
routine procedures and systems. The learning types required are
construction of new programmes, not learning existing programmes.

The reason why the leader in the emergent situation needs to give the
employee space, is of course that the leader himself is not able to
contribute any knowledge about relevant categorisation of and relations
between perceived phenomena. But how does he then add value to the
process? What do we need him for? What does he do?
One leader in one of the case businesses gives the following description
of his leader role in the emergent situation:
It is very important that you have an extremely good dialogue
with the people on the task, because there are a lot of things to be
taken into consideration all the time, and that we speak the same
language and address the issues that keep turning up, and an
enormous amount of things keep turning up. This is why the main
focus in that situation lies on politician and pedagogue. [].
What the leader in question emphasises in the emergent situation, is
written in italics: dialogue, talking to people all the time, speaking the
same language, giving them space.
The leader continues:
I walk with them to their workplace and look at it and discuss
solutions with them. (The leader used the term brainstorm' here.)
To some extent, I let them make their own suggestions and stay in
the background to let them have ownership. When we have talked
the situation through and have found a proposed solution within
the standard framework, that's OK with me.

The leaders description presents him as very active, and he clearly sees
himself as being able to make a difference as a leader.
In reply to the question why people cannot fix things themselves when
they are the ones that come up with the ideas, the leader says:
I have to sort of push them a little. If I dont, there's a risk of things
grinding to a halt. I have to report back to the system and to my
colleagues about the status and the solutions used, have to be
able to defend them towards others.
The interview then turned to the aspect that not everybody found the
situations amusing:
To begin with, we screened out the people that insisted on being
told what to do. The project oriented ones stayed on. People have
to be motivated to do this. For example, some times when theres
an error that needs to be corrected, then they have to pull
everything apart that they have just made. Polishing, painting,
insulating, dismantling correcting the error and then again:
assembling, insulating, masking, painting, polishing etc. they
have to be really motivated!
The question of how the leader motivates his employees has been the
topic of much leadership research for decades. The quote above clearly
shows that the interviewed leader regards motivation as something the
individual employee brings to his workplace, not something that the
leader gives to the employee.

On the subject of his leaderial function, he continued:

I am involved, not so much to control as to know how far weve
got. Many tasks affect the work areas of colleagues, which is why
they need to know when a piece of work is finished, approved and
checked, so they can take over and do their work.
Apparently, this leader perceives that he can be close to his people while
at the same time leaving them a wide space, allowing them to take up a
lot of space. The proximity of the leader does not prevent the presence of
Usually, that will be the case. In densely populated countries the
individual citizen has less space than is the case in sparsely populated
countries. However, in the emergent leadership situation, other factors
are in play.
At a first glance, this seems plausible. The use of groups and teams in
creativity development is very common (Majaro 1988). Seen from a
mathematical perspective, a combination of two systems, each with their
elements and perhaps even categories of elements, may trigger a larger
number of available solutions than would the number of solutions
originally consisting of the simple total of the two systems. This type of
combination is used e.g. as a basic principle of the creativity technique
morphological analysis, (ibid. p. 173 ff.) As a consequence, dialogue
must be regarded as a tool to expand the space of possibilities as well as
to limit it.

In the description quoted above of the type of leadership in the emergent

situation, the leaders watchword is to see to it that things happen and to
coordinate with adjoining areas and with the system. Implicit in this
concept are the ideas that all suggestions are welcomed, everybody
takes part in problem solving, everybodys contributions are
accommodated and respected: they are all necessary. As there is no
answer key, creativity and innovation are needed. The relevant
leadership ideal types are politician and poet. It is allowed to experience,
learn, compose, invent transcend borders. (ibid. p 111.)
So, the statement above may be further developed into: The proximity of
the leader may lead to more space. This is the essence of leadership in
the emergent situation.
The demands to the leader in the emergent situation are partly different
from those of the non-emergent situation.
The leader in the emergent situation must first of all be able to select
project oriented employees for the task.
Secondly, he must be able to enter into dialogue with the workers; a
dialogue which contains both divergent and convergent aspects.
Finally, his controlling ideal types must be politician and poet. This means
that if needed, he is able to take the required space to realise these


As a consequence, traditional leadership functions relating to control and

coordination have been overlaid by qualities such as inspiration, intuition,
improvisation and innovation, specifying the specific context in which this
is vital.
As the leader in this situation has to base his actions primarily on the
emergence of the situation, the leadership approach is called emergence

11.7 Congruence and Emergence Leadership Compared with

Situational Leadership
Hersey & Blanchard (H&B) have developed a theory and a model for
situational leadership based on a solid practical and theoretical
foundation (Hersey & Blanchard, 1969). One justified argument against
the theory presented in the present chapter could well be that it is only a
dressed-up version of H&B's model. However, it differs from their model
in a number of areas. The three most important areas will be described in
the following.
First, H&Bs theory is a behavioural model that operates with objective,
measurable data. The theory presented in this chapter is based on
leaders' worlds of perception. The two theories operate on different
Second, H&Bs theoretical dimensions are the two elements of maturity:
motivation and vocational skills as objective categories. In comparison,
the present theory uses the constituent dimensions of emergence and

space as perceived phenomena. The constituent dimensions of the two

theories are different.
Finally, and as a consequence of the different constituent dimensions of
the two theories, there are differences between the normative
consequences of the two models.
The most obvious area of overlap between the two theories is the H&B
leadership style delegating. However, H&B describe the leader in this
area as being passive, neither supportive nor instructing. The emergence
leader of the present theory is extremely active.
Another potential area of overlap is participating. In H&Bs words, this
style is relevant where workers are able but unwilling or insecure. The
description of this style is very similar to that of emergence leadership in
which this style is claimed to be relevant, but the situation claimed by
H&B to be relevant does not match the emergent situation: Employees of
the emergence leader are not able; they are just as insecure when it
comes to coping with sudden problems as everybody else. At the same
time, the emergence leader has explicitly selected employees for the task
who bring their own motivation.


The Hersey & Blanchard model of situational leadership

In conclusion, the present theory has added new aspects to the concepts
of leadership in relation to the Hershey and Blanchard model for
situational leadership. The planning and control logic, which is a
predominant aspect of H&Bs theory and model, has been supplemented
by logic of improvisation.

11.8 Whats new?

Objections could be raised that empathy and improvisation have been
integral parts of the conceptual framework of leadership theory for many
years. However, the present theory makes a contribution by describing

the circumstances, as perceived by leaders and employees in the

workplace, that are required to bring the categories in question
successfully in play.
A common approach to both general leadership and change leadership is
that the leader is the one who knows best. This study includes
situations in which the leader does not know best. This focus on
emergent situations has led to an expansion of the leaders rolerepertoire from leadership in known situations to also embrace leadership
in unknown situations. The model coins a relatively new challenge
without playing down the more traditional roles. Change leadership in
emergent situations is described in this study as active and close to the
employee. Thus it modifies and develops recent descriptions that tend to
ascribe a more passive role to the leader in the open situation. (Borum
1997), (Stacey 2002), (Stacey, Griffin and Shaw 2000).
And, as a main point this study has shown the feasibility for management
of taking supervisors experience and meaning ascription as pivot reality.

11.9 Practical outlook

The practical results of the study are directed at two groups: 1:
Supervisors. 2: Department heads and top managers.
The included descriptions of supervisors worlds of perception may be
used directly by supervisors. They deal with attitudes and beliefs that the

individual supervisor is able to change. The individual supervisor may

choose to accept or reject these attitudes and beliefs. In addition, it is a
matter of social skills. A leader who wishes to accept these attitudes and
beliefs, and who is able and willing to learn the necessary skills, will be
better equipped to use this knowledge to initiate targeted learning soon.
Others can (hopefully) opt out at an early stage. In that connection, the
necessary, loyal disobedience is important. If a leader does not feel that it
is possible for him to take an open discussion with his superior on the
necessary latitude, he must take it himself on the sly. Important factors
here are of course risk calculations, both the probability of the
implementation of a change project failing, and the severity of the
consequences if things go wrong.
Department Heads and Top Managers
By means of the proposed theses it is now possible for senior managers
to rethink the implementation situation. To most department heads, the
natural benchmark for progress is the direct objective: The result, the
step-by-step approach to successful implementation. However, the claim
put forward here is that department heads and top managers should
instead focus on the indirect objective: the individual supervisors world
of perception.
This theory gives department heads and top managers a set of reflexion
tools that enable them to understand the best possible operative
conditions for their leaders - as the leaders themselves see them.


If the department head can make sure that these worlds of perception
reflect the theory explained in this chapter, successful implementation will
probably ensue automatically.
This insight can be put to use in the selection, development, and
leadership of leaders involved in change tasks.
This new knowledge constitutes an encouragement to department heads
and top managers to classify their planned change projects according to
the emergence dimension and select key individuals to lead the
implementation, whose worlds of perception correspond to the
emergence of specific change projects to supplement the considerations
that managers most likely always make based on the competency
profiles of project participants. In addition, department heads have to
realise the necessity of loyal disobedience: In other words, the
department head must consider the change project in relation to whether
the leaders CAN, but also in relation to whether they WANT TO, MAY
and DARE.
Furthermore, the management of a business may consider on what
criteria its leaders and change leaders are best selected and trained. Are
they to be trained to become extrovert, business-creating, risk-taking,
enterprising, and creative in order to enable the business to expand
locally with local leaders as engines (high emergence), or should they be
equipped to look after the day-to-day routines of their areas of
responsibility, meticulously follow procedures, and monitor their workers
in all details? (low emergence). Does the business want postmen, pilots,

pedagogues, politicians or poets to take on the change task at hand

when considering the probable emergence of the challenges?
The rationale of this type of consideration is that it may be a bad idea in
the name of humanism, progress or prevailing leadership fashions to
develop change leaders into becoming more experimental and open to
employee initiatives and suggestions if the name of the game is to
implement projects that hold few or no surprises. Or conversely to
develop them into control freaky issuers of orders if the dominant project
types are new and hold many possibilities of surprises. Such
considerations will probably result in requirements to different leadership
jobs differing widely and demanding completely different development
tracks, and such a differentiation may, to the extent this is not already the
case, be incorporated into career policies, job structures, procedures of
promotion etc.
On the background of such considerations, the managements interviews
with existing and potential change leaders, to the extent this is not
already taken care of in established development interview systems, can
be used to chart and discuss their meaning and experience patterns for
the purposes of career planning and supervision and thus be an indicator
for participation in any leadership development training. It is possible that
the outcome will be a dual concept with a divergent track aiming to lead
into the unknown, and a convergent track aiming at an intensive
optimisation of sub-procedures and minimisation of waste. Both types of
project may occur in both public and private businesses, in their efforts to
achieve, maintain, and develop efficiency and competitive power.

To the extent certain change projects as experienced by the actors

include the dual aspects of high and low emergence, the course of
development must be planned and carried out in order to promote this
flexibility. It is possible that not very many candidates have the potential
to master the full range of all five Ps, but it is important to face realities in
In general terms it may be a question of scrutinising the business'
sanction policies. If the leader realises that he will not be severely
punished if he commits a mistake it may bolster his courage to be
necessarily and loyally disobedient.
Under all circumstances it can be of the utmost importance to teach
change leaders to disagree and disobey. Leadership development
programmes must be carefully designed.
More specifically, department heads and executives should consider
whether the supervisors are sensitive to employees perception of and
wish for emergence and space; whether they meet the criteria for the
ideal types required; and whether the department heads themselves
master a sufficiently varied range of ideal types in relation to ongoing or
planned change projects regarded in the light of how the supervisors may
perceive or actually perceive and prefer the emergence and space of the
change tasks.


This also means that the adoption of one company style or a set of
specific leadership principles, may be quite inappropriate if they are more
specific than general value statements.
Overall, the most relevant way to make use of the recommendations in
the present chapter is probably for top management of a business to
discuss between them how they individually and together can make
use of them in their specific business and their specific change projects.

11.10 The Learning Organisation. Organisational and

Individual Learning.
In conclusion, to put matters into perspective, it is relevant to point out
the possibility of generalising the optimum balance mentioned between
perceived emergence and space to other types of social change. The
following areas could be relevant:
Government systems in relation to the populations perception of and
wish for dynamism/stability (dictatorship-democracy);
The more or less tight restrictions of religions in relation to the perception
of and wish for self-expression of the believers, e.g. of the believing
women; and third:
Design of strategies of risk management which have to address known
risks which have to be minimized and countered, and completely
unknown risks which it has to be made possible to identify.


All of these perspectives are discussed in more detail in the PhD

dissertation mentioned above. However, in this context it is relevant to
point out an area that is close to the theme of this chapter - change
leadership - namely the concept of The Learning Organisation.

Individual and Organisational Learning


Individual and organisational


Organisational and personal learning and development imply moving in
two mutually opposite directions. By personal development is often
meant development towards being able to handle tasks of an ever
increasing complexity with increasing degrees of freedom and involving
increasingly complex learning types such as problem identification,
creative problem solving, and creating feasible routines from created


solutions to problems. These learning types involve creativity and

innovation. This is where we find the politician and the poet.
At the same time, both personal and organisational learning often move
in the direction of learning and training procedures, systems, and routines
that involve simpler learning types directed at optimising the subprocesses of the business. The involved learning types in such cases are
primarily acquisition of already developed programmes. This is where we
find the postman, the pilot, and the pedagogue.
The successful leadership is aware of both these processes and of the
need to make them both work. That is in accordance with the rationale of
the business: To make known processes into routines in order to
optimise and rationalise production of known products, at the same time
as the business has to create new services in order to match the dynamic
market and technology demands. In Peter Senges original concept
Learning Organization (Senge 1990), the organisation was regarded as
a natural system in which an optimisation of internal sub-processes could
ensure the organisations health. Systems thinking was Senges overall
message. However, in order to preserve its vitality, it is necessary to
expand the concept to also include emergence thinking: to recognise and
describe the leaders important role, close to his subordinates, in
situations that seem unfathomable, where the consequences of any
action are unpredictable; i.e. in situations that require joint inspiration,
improvisation, intuition, and innovation. The politician and the poet must
be brought into play, because leaders and employees are increasingly

often facing questions that nobody inside or outside the business knows
the answer to.

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About the Authors

Daniel Belet studied economics, political sciences and business
administration. He received two PhDs, both in economics and in
business administration from the Bordeaux University as well as a master
degree in political sciences. He is also holding a M.S. in management
from the Kellogg School of Management of the Northwestern University
(USA). For more than 30 years he has been working as a professor,
researcher, trainer and a consultant for various institutions and as an
independent professional. He is presently professor of human
management and leadership at la Rochelle Business School as well as a
self employed consultant. He is involved in learning organizations since
the early 90s and is a member of ECLO since 1994. He is also a
member of SOL - France since 1999. He has written two books, one
about becoming a true learning organization, as well as numerous
articles both in academic and professional journals for more than 20

Rudolph Bolsius studied at a Teacher Training College and received a

master in research psychology at the University of Utrecht He also
studied marketing at Stanford University USA.


Ater 5 years of working as a history teacher and counseler in secundary

education he started to work as a consultant. In that period he was also
involved in the training of students in learning psychology and child
psychiatry at a Higher Vocational training Institute(now Fontys university
Tilburg). He wrote a book on behavioral problems and a number of
course books on history teaching and language teaching. At KPC Group
Consultancy he was involved in large scale implementation projects and
since many years in projectmanagement. Besides being a board
memeber of ECLO he is president of the Dutch national association of
project managers and vice president of the International project
management Association (IPMA) for strategic marketing.

Ton Bruining studied Dietetics, Social pedagogy and Educational

sciences. In 2006 received a PhD in Humanistics at the University for
Humanistics in Utrecht, for his research on working, learning and
innovating in a regional police force. He worked as a dietician in primary
health, as a consultant Training and Development in a general hospital
and as a manager Training and Development in the leisure business.
Since 1998 he is senior consultant for KPC Group. His projects deal with
working and learning in public service. From his position at KPC he is
also part-time professor at Domstad University in Utrecht and in charge
of a research project on the establishment of a professional development
network for students, college teachers and teachers in primary education.

He publishes regularly on his work, his ideas and his research. Since
1990 he has been linked to various journals in the field of learning in
organizations. Since 2000 he is editor of a Dutch HRD Training &
Development magazine, Opleiding & Ontwikkeling.

Richard Dealtry has extensive international executive experience in

company and organisational renewal. Since the mid-1990s he has
specialised in innovation management, working with both the private and
public business sectors. His pioneering concept works include real-time
demand-led learning processes that significantly leverage levels and
standards in organisation capability. Richard is widely published, a
motivational and distinguished speaker and author of the now
internationally-applied Corporate University Blueprint - Design School
Model. Richard's company, Intellectual Partnerships Co, has a leading
role in a rapidly growing international network dedicated to achieving
competitive global management performance and nurturing talented
people. The company contributes to these objectives through the design
and delivery of inspirational and dynamic learning process solutions for
sustaining business growth, organisational regeneration and high quality
client and multi-client strategic intellectual supply chain intelligence

Andrew Haldane studied Materials Science at the University of Bradford

and later gained an MSc in Management at the University of Salford. He
has been a board member of ECLO for over fifteen years
Following an early management career in industry he joined the
Staffordshire Business School where he developed interest in
consultancy and research in the fields of organisational learning and
workforce development. He now has over 20 years experience in this
field, working in both the public and private sectors, with a particular
focus on innovation in work-based learning. He has extensive experience
of participation in multi-partner European projects in his field, including a
number supported through the EU research framework programme in
technology-enhanced learning.
In recent years he has developed a particular interest in collaboration
between employers and universities in the development and accreditation
of advanced professional practice, and recently joined the University of
Wales Institute Cardiff, leading a project in the use of technologyenhanced learning to support a Welsh centre for workforce development.

Ole Hinz studied Education at rhus University and defended his Phd in
Change Management and Leadership at Copenhagen Business School
(CBS). He was founder and owner of the consultant company KIO Ltd.
from early 1970ies until the new millennium. KIO trained leaders of

leading Danish corporations with the purpose of optimizing their

organisational learning potential. During the first years of practice KIO
was thus a leading actor in turning largely very mechanical and vertical
corporate cultures of that time towards more organic and open cultures
with smaller internal power distancies. Since 2001 he has been teaching
and supervising master students of Change Management and
Organisation Development at CBS at the same time participating in
research projects in the same field at CBS and Roskilde University
Center (RUC). He was member of the ECLO board from 1997 to 2007.
His present primary research interest is in the theories of science on
which various organisation studies are based.

Jane McKenzie is Director of Funded Research at Henley Business

School. In her career, Jane has been active in both business and
academia. The first 15 years of her working life were spent as a financial
controller for both large multinationals and SMEs, mainly in the
chemicals and biotech industries. During this time she qualified as an
accountant and completed an MBA.
Her focus changed to managing more intangible resources when she
moved to the USA. Here she spent five years consulting, writing and
researching issues like IT benefits management, business transformation
and the virtual organisation and completed a PhD She is now Professor

of Management Knowledge and Learning at Henley Business School,

University of Reading, where her primary role is Director of the Henley
KM Forum. Her research continues to span strategy, KM, organisational
learning and change but can be summarised in two words - Connections
and Contradictions. How, mental, personal and organisational
connections affect knowledge, learning and value creation and how
managers handle the contradictory demands implicit in modern business
activity . How can organisations develop people and systems that can
resolve tensions creatively, adapt and learn in the face of constant
change. Jane has written two books and many papers; The most recent
book called Understanding the Knowledgeable Organization was coauthored with Christine van Winkelen,

ngela Lacerda Nobre is a researcher and assistant teacher at a

Management School in Portugal (Escola Superior de Cincias
Empresariais do Instituto Politcnico de Setbal, ESCE-IPS) since 1998.
She has a diversified academic background in economics, management,
public administration and contemporary philosophy. Her PhD title is
Semiotic Learning a conceptual framework for facilitating learning in
knowledge-intensive organisations. She has published on various
themes, including organisational learning, knowledge management,
innovation, entrepreneurship, knowledge economy, organisational
psychoanalysis, human resource development and economics

pedagogies. Her most recent book chapter is Knowledge Processes and

Organizational Learning: A Radical Shift in Management Thinking?, in
Claire McInerney & Ron Day (eds.) Re-Thinking KM: From Knowledge
Management to Knowledge Processes (USA, Springer-Verlag, 2007).
She was a founder and editor of Special Interest Group Knowledge
Management Research Q-SIG of the European Project and
Knowledge Management Portal Knowledge Board. She has been the
coordinator of two research projects, including Agere II, a research
network developing Organisational Audit - Innovative Approaches to
Evaluating Organisational Effectiveness.

Hlya ztel is a principal lecturer in strategic Management at De

Montfort University. She carried out extensive research and consultancy
work in the field of public-private partnership, enterprise development and
training in the UK and in France. Hlya obtained a first class honours
degree, from Marseilles Business School, France. She has a Masters
Degree from Aston Business School, UK. She has obtained her PhD
from Warwick Business School (UK) in 2005. She is involved the
teaching and management of a wide range of modules, including
Strategic Management, Business Simulation Game, Research Methods
and Knowledge Management.

Ulrich Schweiker studied Personality Research, Group Dynamics,

Organisation Behaviour, and Higher Education. He graduated from
Muenster University in 1979 with a master in Social Psychology, and
received a Ph.D. at Muenster University with a thesis on self-disclosure
and attraction in teams. He worked as internal and external specialist for
organisational change and transformation as well as a senior executive
for global corporations such as Volkswagen, Bilfinger+Berger, Krupp,
Sulzer, Alstom as well as Associate Partner of Andersen Consulting /
Accenture with a focus on human capital strategy. During recent years he
shifted his focus on governance issues for large and complex
transformations like consolidation of branches of industry and large
multinational mergers and acquisitions as well as regional development.
He regularly teaches at higher education institutions and is an active
networker in the field of executive coaching and development. In 2003 he
was awarded the GSBA Ambassador Award for continuously promoting
innovation in executive teaching. He was also elected board member of
ECLO. Currently he is affiliated with the University Heidelberg and
involved in a research project to enhance the quality of consulting


Christine van Winkelen (PhD, MBA MCIPD, CPhys) has worked with
the Knowledge Management Forum at Henley Business School in the UK
since its inception in 2000, project managing and leading research
activities and special interest groups. She was the Director for five years
until early 2009. She is a Visiting Academic Fellow at Henley Business
School and is actively involved in a number of KM-related research
projects there. Her particular research interests include the strategy,
leadership and change management aspects of knowledge-based
enterprises. Her focus is on forming a bridge between academic and
practitioner aspects of the field and her research is carried out in close
partnership with managers from the private and public sector. Recent
research projects have studied knowledge management in relation to
innovation, expertise development and decision making. She has
published extensively in academic and practitioner journals, co-authoring
Understanding the Knowledgeable Organization: Nurturing Knowledge
Competence with Professor Jane McKenzie, published by Thomson
Learning in 2004. As a freelance academic and writer, Christine also
tutors strategy, knowledge management and research methods courses
on MBA programmes at Henley Business School and two other UK
business schools. Previously, she spent fifteen years working in high
technology multi-national companies in a variety of product management,
human resources management and scientific research capacities.


Learning Organisation
The next generation
The credit-crunch of 2008/2009 makes painfully clear that our economies,
our organisations, our employees and we ourselves need solid concepts
to develop humane and sustainable organisations. Organisations that will
facilitate people to think and to give them a right of say, that will challenge people to cross borders and explore new frontiers and to connect
with others. Organisations no longer driven by greed, not afflicted with
short-sightedness, nor burdened by bureaucratic stupidity. Learning
organisations that will provide a glimmer of hope for a better future.
This book is written for readers intrigued by the quest for what a learning
organisation is and ways in which learning organisations can be improved. It contains contributions by Daniel Belet (France), Rudolph Bolsius,
Ton Bruining (The Netherlands), Richard Dealtry, Andrew Haldane, Jane
McKenzie, Hlya ztel, Christine van Winkelen (United Kingdom), Ole
Hinz (Danmark), ngela Lacerda Nobre (Portugal) Ulrich Schweiker
With this e-book we celebrate the inspiring efforts of all those practioners,
managers consultants and researchers and others, who concentrated on
an important issue of our modern knowledge dependent society:
Dr. Ton Bruining (1956) is a member of ECLO and works
as researcher and senior consultant for KPC Group,
s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands

ISBN: 978-90-6755-139-7

KPC Groep
PO box 482
5201 AL s-Hertogenbosch
The Netherlands