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Learning organisations: empirically investigating metaphors

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When organisations succeed in developing and nurturing their organisational learning they create a form of intellectual capital that is difficult for competitors to imitate. Since learning enhances organisational ability to adapt and respond rapidly, it conveys competitive advantage on the organisation. Learning organisations are a special form of organisation where enhancing learning is a strategy to increase intellectual capital. Developing learning organisations has become an imperative for many managers, since an organisation's learning methods and rate may be the only source of sustainable competitive advantage. However, learning organisation theory tends to be prescriptive and rhetorical, with empirical research still relatively new. This paper contributes to the literature by reporting case-study research in progress based on four Australian organisations. In the organisations studied, use of the learning organisation metaphor was coupled with an emergent metaphor: organisation as "family". By employing structure mapping of metaphor within analytical induction, both established methods but not combined before, we show how theory might be developed from metaphor.

Keywords: Case Studies; Family Life; Intellectual Capital; Metaphors; Organizational Learning

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: October 31, 2001

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