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The "learning organisation" and Singapore culture

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Purpose ‐ The purpose of this paper is to explore practitioner and post-colonial perspectives on the implementation of learning organisation theory and practice in a non-Western setting. Design/methodology/approach ‐ A qualitative interpretive study, using in-depth interviews and participant observation, was conducted in two public organisations in Singapore. The study looked at relationships between the concepts of the learning organisation and of Singapore national culture, as the members of the organisations saw them. This study is presented and then discussed in commentaries from two different perspectives, i.e. the "insider" perspective of a Singaporean practitioner, and the "outsider" perspective of a New Zealand academic using a post-colonial critique. Findings ‐ The findings indicate that Western LO practitioners need to pay specific attention to the cultural values expressed by non-Western organisational members, and to their own cultural limitations and biases which may be embedded in the implementation of LO programmes. This process requires an active dialogue between both parties. Practical implications ‐ The findings indicate that practitioners need to pay specific attention to the cultural values of employees, and to the cultural assumptions of new management programmes, when adopting Western concepts of management to non-Western organisations. Originality/value ‐ This is an empirical study that reveals the particular tensions experienced in two specific non-Western organisations when LO practice was introduced without explicit exploration of its Western cultural underpinnings. The paper argues that the development of an LO discourse of organisational post-colonialism can provide a valuable critical framework to examine the global mobilisation of LO concepts.
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Keywords: Learning organizations; National cultures; Organizational learning; Post-colonial; Singapore

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 17, 2013

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