Learning as an activity of interdependent people

R. Stacey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

118 Citations (Scopus)
169 Downloads (Pure)


This paper argues that to talk about organisations learning is to reify and anthropomorphise organisations. Instead of thinking of an organisation as if it were a thing or a person it is closer to experience to think of an organisation as the patterning of peoples’ interactions with each other. This paper explores the assumptions that are being made when we talk about organisations or groups that learn, or about individuals learning in groups or organisations. It suggests an alternative to thinking in these ways, namely, that learning is an activity of interdependent people. If one takes the view an organisation is the organising activities of interdependent people, it leads to a particular perspective on learning. Much of the communicative and power relating activities of interdependent people take the form of continually iterated patterns of repetition in which meaning and power figurations have the quality of stability which we call identity. But because of the nonlinear iterative nature of human interaction there is always the potential for small differences to be amplified into transformative shifts in identity. Learning is then understood as the emerging shifts in the patterning of human communicative interaction and power relating. Leaning is the activity of interdependent people and can only be understood in terms of self organising communicative interaction and power relating in which identities are potentially transformed. Individuals cannot learn in isolation and organisations can never learn.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-331
JournalThe Learning Organization
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2003


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