A process perspective on investigating and theorising network learning: 1st organization studies summer workshop

Louise Knight, Annie Pye

Research output: Working paper


Business and public sector leaders and managers are increasingly concerned with how networks of organizations function and can be influenced; organization theory and management research need therefore to extend into the domain of interorganizational networks. Building on our experiences of investigating network learning (NL) – learning by a group of organizations as a group – we elaborate some techniques for capturing and analysing process data in networks and evaluate them in the light of others’ insights on research process and theorising learning process.Whilst NL outcomes were comparatively easy to distinguish, learning process was much more difficult; we found constructs from prior research did not provide sufficient descriptive or explanatory power. Having however identified ‘sub-plots’ within ‘episodes’ of network learning we were able then to undertake a comparative analysis from which we elaborated three types of sub-plots relating to developing meaning, developing method and developing commitment. The resultant model of network learning presents a view of learning as a social, political and non-linear process. It is a perspective which is distinct from many conceptualisations of learning in organizational and interorganizational settings that tend to be derived from theories of individual learning. We propose that future theoretical development of learning process would benefit from researchers being more explicit about whether they regard learning as isomorphic across individual, group/collective, organizational and network levels, or whether they are adopting a more data-driven conceptualisation of learning.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


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