Roberto Albano, Tommaso Maria Fabbri

A Simonian approach to organizational learning and action research

  • Abstract

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Keywords: organizational learning, action research, bounded rationality, uncertainty

Two important theoretical domains deal with organizational change mainly without any explicit reciprocal references: organizational learning theories and methodology of action research. This paper argues about the utility of a cross-fertilizations between the two fields, by means of a combination of well-selected concepts from both domains. A convergence is possible after having defined a common epistemological ground: here, organization is con¬ceived of as a process of actions and decisions, characterized by bounded and intentional rationality. Therefore, organizational learning is always possible and every process is always perfectible; it is an intrinsic property of organized and organizing processes; it generates solutions that are not optimizing, but "satisficing", evaluated by criteria expressed by agents that are involved in the control of the processes. Still in accordance with this conception of organization, the knowledge structured in scientific disciplines can support the organization in its continuous learning, provided that it is combined with the knowledge and the capabilities daily developed within the organization. An empirical case-study is then discussed; it deals with the «seizing of a class of pupils» by a novice teacher in a highly uncertain task environment; we refer to two methods of action-research: the Method of Organizational Congruencies - "Metodo delle Congruenze Organizzative" - and the Method of the Self-Confrontation - "Méthode d'Auto-confrontation". Both methods are consistent with the theory of bounded and intentional rationality; both reveal as instruments of analysis of organized and organizing work situations, useful to support the continuous processes of organizational learning.

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