Cohesion or Confusion? Towards a Typology for Organizational Learning Research

20 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2006

See all articles by Helen Shipton

Helen Shipton

Aston University - Aston Business School


The study of organizational learning is no longer in its infancy. Since Cyert and March first introduced the notion in the early 1960s, a plethora of books and journal publications have presented their own interpretations of the meaning and significance of the term. Despite such endeavours, there is little common agreement about what organizational learning represents and how future research may build cumulatively upon the many diverse ideas articulated. The intention here is by no means to address these issues, which have been comprehensively examined elsewhere. The purpose is rather to compare and contrast approaches in order to analyse similarities and dissimilarities, together with research challenges, for each approach. This is achieved by presenting a comparative framework to categorize the literature according to (a) its prescriptive/explanatory bias and (b) in line with the level of analysis, examining whether there is a focus on the organization as a whole or upon individuals and their work communities instead. The review concludes by presenting some preliminary suggestions for cross-quadrant research.

Suggested Citation

Shipton, Helen, Cohesion or Confusion? Towards a Typology for Organizational Learning Research. International Journal of Management Reviews, Vol. 8, No. 4, pp. 233-252, December 2006. Available at SSRN: or

Helen Shipton (Contact Author)

Aston University - Aston Business School ( email )

Aston Triangle
Birmingham, B47ET
United Kingdom
+44 0 121 204 3237 (Phone)

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