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

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Networks, Social Identity, and Learning

Many large organizations are also being deconstructed into systems of smaller components which then form a business or organizational network. Networks are regarded as a significant transformation from ‘vertical bureaucracies’ into ‘horizontal corporations’ (Castells, 1996). One incentive to form networks stems from the virtue of small units in order to avoid the rigidity, lack of focus and anonymity of large-scale organizations. It is argued that small units can more readily become ‘self-organizing’ than can larger units, and hence pursue their own learning initiatives when the need arises (Handy, 1992; Senge, 1997). Another incentive is that networks can provide a flexible means of quickly achieving global reach in both supply chains and markets.

Studies in sociology have for some time addressed the question of how minorities and disadvantaged groups develop a social identity in forming relational networks (Proudford and Nkomo, 2006). However, the question of how social identity is developed across organizational networks so as to encourage learning within them requires more investigation. Networks have been defined in several ways. A commonly accepted definition refers to social units that are loosely or tightly connected through shared activities, common values or interests, whether these units are organizations, groups, or individuals (Brown and Duguid, 2001). While it is relatively easy to understand how a group develops a collective ...

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