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Norman Meisinger, "On dialectics in theorizing: the contingent nature of organizational learning", in: International Journal of Organizational Analysis


Purpose – During the past decades, numerous contributions to organizational learning have emerged. However, these theories are plagued by the same paradoxical core that prevents organizational learning from being unambiguously determined or stably located throughout the entire organization and its individuals. The purpose of this paper is to understand how researchers approach this issue.

Design/methodology/approach – Through a meta-lens, this conceptual study observes how researchers are taming the paradox of organizational learning, referring exclusively to the theories that deal with its inherent paradox.

Findings – The author distinguishes fundamentally different theorizing strategies. Therefore, the paper aims not to sharpen the elusive and fuzzy nature of organizational learning but to sharpen the elusive understanding that its nature is fuzzy. As a consequence, the study further emphasizes how challenging an instrumental use of the academic construct of organizational learning for practicing managers outside research laboratories is.

Originality/value – The paper contributes (first) to the core understanding of the inherently conflicting construct of organizational learning by (second) uncovering the dialectics of the theories concerning it – the former only becomes feasible as a result of the latter.

Keywords: Dialectics, Organizational learning, Meta-analysis, Paradox, Theorizing, Superposition

Paper type: Conceptual paper

Meisinger, N. (2020). On dialectics in theorizing: the contingent nature of organizational learning, in: International Journal of Organizational Analysis 28(4), pp. 957-968, DOI: 10.1108/IJOA-10-2019-1905.