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Handbook of Organizational Learning and Knowledge Management, Second Edition by MARJORIE A. LYLES, MARK EASTERBY-SMITH

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The Theoretical Contribution Made by the Study of Practices

We have seen that importing the concept of practice into organizational learning studies has given rise to a large body of literature on practice, thus confirming the intuition of Easterby-Smith et al. (2000) that the emergence of practice as a unit of analysis would be one of the most promising developments within organizational learning. Let us now see whether we can intuit the components of a practice theory of organizations.

An organizational theory is nothing other than a system of representations, and in this case it is based on the idea that ‘organizing’ derives from the practical modes in which the entanglement between doing and knowing finds its direction and purpose by anchoring itself in materiality and discursiveness.

The base components of a practice theory of organizing are given by defining practice as a collective knowledgeable doing which is socially sustained. The feature which distinguishes practice from action is its recurrent nature. The recursiveness of practices is what enables the reproduction of the organization in its everyday routine. Working practices, in fact, are the elements of shared meaning that allow us to go to work day after day without having to invent every morning what we must do, and without having to negotiate it with our colleagues. Just as society and social relationships must be reproduced day after day and meeting after meeting, so organizations are reproduced every day through ...

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