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Organizational Unlearning: Opportunities and Interdisciplinary Perspectives

Special issue call for papers from The Learning Organization

Guest Editors:

Nhien Nguyen
Nordland Research Institute, Norway
[email protected]

Thomas Grisold
Vienna University of Economics and Business, Austria
[email protected]

Adrian Klammer
University of Liechtenstein, Liechtenstein
[email protected]

Organizational unlearning has attracted increasing interest in the fields of organizational learning, knowledge management and change management. A recent debate shows that the concept is facing serious challenges in research. For example, there is a lack of a coherent definition that captures central processes and considers different kinds of knowledge types (Tsang, 2017). Furthermore, since unlearning cannot be eliminated in a literal sense, it is hard to assess when unlearning has been successful (Howells & Scholderer, 2016). Finally, there appears to be confusion between unlearning on an individual and organizational level i.e. across the micro and macro foundations (Starbuck, 2017).

In cooperation with the conference IFKAD 2018, which will be held from July 4-6 in Delft, Netherlands, this special issue will offer a space to continue the ongoing debate. We welcome interested authors at IFKAD 2018 to discuss their research ideas (please find more information on

We encourage researchers to submit papers that
-    point to new opportunities and blind spots that emerge from the ongoing debate
-    consider interdisciplinary perspectives that include –but are not limited to- psychology, neuroscience and cognitive science (Fiol & O’Conner 2017)
-    discuss the implication/relevance of organizational unlearning to the learning organizations
-    present empirical studies
-    offer ideas on the concept of “becoming a learning & unlearning organization” (Hsu, 2013)


Full papers should be submitted by November 15, 2018.
The publication is scheduled for late 2019.

All submitted papers should follow TLO’s author guidelines:


Fiol, M., & O’Connor, E. 2017. “Unlearning established organizational routines – Part I”. The Learning Organization, Vol 24, No 1, 13–29.

Howells, J., & Scholderer, J. 2016. “Forget unlearning? How an empirically unwarranted concept from psychology was imported to flourish in management and organisation studies”. Management Learning, Vol 47, No 4, 443–463.

Hsu, S.-W. (2013) "Alternative learning organization". In Örtenblad, A. (editor) Handbook of Research on the Learning Organization Adaptation and Context. Edward Elgar Publishing, Inc. Cheltenham, UK 358-371.

Starbuck, W. H. 2017. “Organizational learning and unlearning”. The Learning Organization, Vol 24, No 1, 30–38.

Tsang, E. W. K. 2017. “How the concept of organizational unlearning contributes to studies of learning organizations”. The Learning Organization, Vol 24, No 1, 39–48.