People and practices in organizational learning
This article discusses the role of practices and people’s participation in practices in conceptual accounts of organizing, learning, and organizational learning. Specifically, the discussion takes its point of departure in Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger’s account of learning as legitimate peripheral participation in practices, and Theodore Schatzki’s practice theory account of organizing and organizations. Both accounts center on the role of practices as people come to know, and as changes occur in social activity and organizational settings. However, the two accounts are based on different ontologies. Borrowing the terminology of John Dewey and Arthur Bentley, Lave and Wenger instantiate a substantivist, and ultimately individualist, ontology, whereas Schatzki’s event ontology is relational. It is argued that both ontologies have merits of their own, but the article seeks to integrate the two approaches by utilizing Ole Dreier’s notion of the life trajectories of persons across social practices. In this perspective, organizational learning shows when people’s life trajectories are affected by the bundles of social practices they engage with, and when the bundles of social practices are transformed by the way people enact the practices.
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Keywords:organizational learning, practice ontology, community of practice, practice theory
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