Organizational Learning through Problem Absorption: A Processual View

Sergey E. Osadchiy, Irma Bogenrieder and Pursey P. M. A. R. Heugens

in Process, Sensemaking, and Organizing

Published in print November 2010 | ISBN: 9780199594566
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595721 | DOI:

Series: Perspectives on Process Organization

Organizational Learning through Problem Absorption: A Processual View

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In organizations, existing codified rules are often used as the basis for solving new problems even when this means stretching those rules. Such “absorption” of new problems by rules reduces the need to explore and develop new solutions and to encode those solutions into new rules. In the present chapter we examine the phenomenon of “problem absorption” more closely from the process perspective and conceptualize it as a micro‐level form of “semantic learning.” Contrary to previous literature, we argue that problem absorption does not necessarily reinforce existing rules and prevent the search for alternatives. We thus contribute to the literature on organizational learning and rule dynamics by showing how under certain conditions the cumulative effects of semantic learning via repeated absorption of novel problems by formal rules can give rise to higher‐level learning that has the potential to transform the organization's rule system.

Keywords: organizational learning; problems; written rules; reflexivity; formal organization; processual view

Chapter.  11183 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Organizational Theory and Behaviour

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