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

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Identity Management in the Organizational Learning Process

The implication of the above discussion is that the effective management of organizational knowledge acquisition, conversion, and creation speaks for policies that are sensitive to social identities and that can reconcile them with new organizational needs. There appear to be two key requirements for such policies to work. The first is to establish constructive relationships between the various participating groups based on trust and the preservation of what Edmondson (1999b) calls ‘psychological safety’ for the persons involved—in other words assuaging their fears of failure and personal harm. The second is a search for acceptable over-arching goals that integrate the participants’ efforts and provide a sense of direction for the learning process. These points may be illustrated by examples from organizational learning processes, involving groups with respectively diverse occupational and national identities.

The use of teams as organizational learning vehicles that constructively reconcile identity differences is apparent in the examples below. Senge (1993) observes that ‘teams, not individuals, are the fundamental learning unit in modern organizations’ (1993: 10). Marshall (2001) sees project teams, comprising members from several contributing social groups, as exemplary of the tension between seeking a team identity (homogeneity) and preserving member differences (heterogeneity). Heterogeneity reflects the different ...

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