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Linking shared organisational context and relational capital through unlearning: An initial empirical investigation in SMEs

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Purpose ‐ The environment provided by an organisation to facilitate learning and create knowledge has been defined as the shared organisational context. The value to an organisation of knowledge created by the shared organisational context is called intellectual capital, of which one key component is relational capital. The purpose of this paper is to focus on the aspect of learning concerned with challenging the basic beliefs or processes that companies take for granted, which is embodied in the concept of unlearning. Design/methodology/approach ‐ This paper reviews the literature to identify relevant measures and present a structural equation model, which is validated through an empirical investigation of 139 small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Spanish optometry sector. Findings ‐ The results indicate that companies need to support unlearning as a prior step, otherwise unlearning does not have any significant effect on the creation of relational capital. Research limitations/implications ‐ Few, if any, studies of the shared organisational context have considered the relationship between unlearning and the creation of intellectual capital. Practical implications ‐ Previous studies, particularly in knowledge management, have focussed on knowledge management systems in large world-class organisations rather than the underlying learning process in SMEs. Originality/value ‐ This study examines three key constituents of the shared organisational context (the individual context, management and teamwork) and their effects on the process of unlearning.
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Keywords: Intellectual capital; Learning; Learning organizations; Small to medium-sized enterprises; Spain

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2006

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