Research Pass management

A Nordic approach to the learning organization and organizational learning - possibilities and impossibilities?

Call for papers for: The Learning Organization

Is there a Nordic approach to the learning organization and organizational learning? And what may that mean?

Special issue of The Learning Organization

Edited by
Ulrik Brandi, Aarhus University, Denmark
Jonas Sprogøe, independent researcher and consultant, Denmark

This special issue intends to contribute to the further development of existing knowledge, analytical and critical as well as prescriptive, on the learning organization/organizational learning by inviting contributions that inquire into the more specific impact of a special Nordic approach. Looking beyond general territorial influences on how we conceptualize and study organizations, we aim in this special issue to zoom in on the possibilities/impossibilities of a Nordic approach (Czarniawska-Joerges and Sevón, 2003; Engwall, 1996; Kreiner, 2007) to the learning organization/organizational learning that has been a part of the organization and management research field for decades. We hereby invite scholars to share their reflections on the potential of Nordic manifestations of the learning organizations/organizational learning as this has been inquired, theoretically, empirically and practically. 

Judging from the increased number of publications that have been issued on how to conceptualize and practice learning in organizations, the learning organization and organizational learning have proven to be powerful and sustainable concepts and tools to think with for organization theorists and industry for decades (Argyris and Schön, 1996; Cyert and March, 1963; Pedler and Aspinwall, 1998; Senge, 1990; Ortenblad, 2002). In this special issue, we prompt researchers within the community to advance our common knowledge on the learning organization/organizational learning reflecting on insights and observations coming from a more specific view, a Nordic approach. We are curious to explore the mutual relationship between “the Nordic” as a conditioning feature and the organizations in the Nordic countries for the learning organization/organizational learning. 
This inquiry is founded upon the idea that a Nordic approach (like other territorial zones) creates particular possibilities and impossibilities for how to conceptualize and practice learning in organizations of which we lack theoretical and practical knowledge.  Research from different disciplines and positions show the existence of traits, attributes and values that in a very particular way influence how societies, organizations and people are to be understood. Yet, what does these different manifestations of a Nordic approach means for the field of the learning organization and organizational learning? 
To study distinct and acknowledged research fields from an e.g. social, political and geographical demarcated view is a novel and still underdeveloped topic in the learning organization/organizational learning literature. We know that general territorial traits, attributes and values have a significant impact on how we conceptualize the organization. March (2007), for example, shows in his important outline of the evolution of research on organizations since 1945 that there has been and still is significant territorial differences between US and European approaches to the study of organizations. In another central analysis by Easterby-Smith et al. (2009) on the gap between deployed research methods in US and UK journals, it is shown that there are essential differences in the way organizational learning is studied and analyzed. Thus, we know that social, economic political and cultural features stimulate our general thinking about what is an organization in particularly ways. 
We see in the more specific literature that traits, attributes and values construct definite conditions for how organizations and learning can be conceptualized and studied in the Nordic countries that underline the importance and novelty of the general topic of this special issue. For example, Aiginger and Guger (2006), drawing on Esping-Andersens work, identify five types of welfare regime types in Europe that each influence and shape societies on a larger scale. One example of this is the Nordic Model that has a very specific socio-political outlook on how we interpret e.g. lifelong learning, production, institutions and behavior (Kangas and Kvist, 2018). Hofstede (1980), show in his studies that there is a particular Nordic culture (including the Netherlands) that is characterized by low power distance among employees in organizations and a relatively flat organizational structure to mention just a few cultural traits that embody organizations and management in a specific Nordic approach. Inspired by Hofstede, Smith et al. (Smith et al., 2003) study the characteristics of a Nordic management style finding several general common traits but also some specific differences amongst Nordic managers. 
Czarniawska-Joerges and Sevón (2003) frame in their central anthology on organization theory in Scandinavia the existence of a plethora of different readings of what the organization means in a Scandinavian context. For example, Byrkjeflot (2003) argues that the dominant western account of rational knowledge does not fit with a Scandinavian view on what is coherent knowledge and what is an organization. For instance, according to Byrkjeflot (ibid.), the concept of ‘organization’ is often taken to refer to trade unions and political organizations, in contrast with ‘normal’ usage, particularly in the USA, where organization refers to the profit-seeking firm or enterprise. In addition, Kreiner (2007) and Westenholz (2012) substantiate the diverse claims made in Czarniawska-Joerges and Sevón’s book emphasizing the importance of several characteristics for a Scandinavian way of understanding organization and organizing. 
We call for papers that show in what way special features of a Nordic approach affect the theory-building, empirical insights and/or practical models for how to understand learning organization and organizational learning and whether a Nordic approach does entail specific features and attributes or not? Three main questions arise from this topic description that can guide reflections on the theme of this special issue. First, is it at all possible to argue for a common Nordic approach and a common set of values, politically, socially or culturally – and how might such commonalities look from a learning organization/organizational learning perspective? Second, is it possible to trace and describe how a Nordic approach influences organizational learning and the learning organization? Thirdly, what may we learn from doing such studies, in order to forward the research field and practice of the learning organization/organizational learning?

This special issue welcomes papers that are dedicated to expand and forward our knowledge on the learning organization and organizational learning in a Nordic context. Possible areas of interests include, but are not limited to the following: 
-    What may characterize a theory of the learning organization and organizational learning in a Nordic approach?
-    Does Nordic organizations have a special approach to learning, and what may such an approach be?
-    Is it at all possible to conceptualize regional specific ideas and tools, in this case Nordic ideas and tools, for the learning organization and organizational learning in a world characterized by globalization and transgressional movement? Is the idea of a Nordic approach a contra-factual case?
-    Does a Nordic approach entail particular tools, models and practices for how to actualize learning processes and outcomes in organizations? 
-    How can studies of organizations of one cultural region, e.g. the Nordic countries, inform our studies of organizations of other cultural regions, e.g. Benelux, the Baltics etc. and vice versa?
-    What characterize Nordic founded studies of the learning organization and organizational learning as regards research methods and analytical models?

Inclusion criteria
The criteria for being included in this special issue is that the papers must advance or challenge our understanding of Nordic dimensions of the learning organization/organizational learning, and/or advance or challenge our understanding of studies of organizations from a territorial perspective. Priority is given to empirical studies that utilize qualitative research strategies or mixed methods. Conceptual papers are also welcomed. All manuscripts must follow the TLO author guidelines:

Maximum impact
To provide opportunity for maximum impact for the contributing authors, accepted papers will be given a full DOI number and become available online at The Learning Organization’s Earlycite webpage until the full issue is published. The special issue is expected to be published in the end of     2021 or beginning of 2022. Those interested in being included in this volume should signal their interest submitting a short abstract (max. 1800 words incl. references) to the guest editors by October 30, 2020 to get feedback before they prepare submissions. 

October 30, 2020        Title and short abstract submitted to the guest editors
December 1, 2020     Editors’ feedback to authors
January 29, 2021     Authors submit first draft of articles to editors for review and feedback
February 26, 2021     Feedback provided by editors to authors on draft article
May 28, 2021        Submit final papers to ScholarOne for blind review and acceptance  

About the guest editors
Ulrik Brandi is Associate Professor in organizational and workplace learning at AU's Danish School of Education. Ulrik is currently director for the research programme ‘Learning, Innovation and Sustainability in Organizations’. He is a skilled researcher within organizational and workplace learning, innovation management, knowledge management, and lifelong learning. Ulrik has been research manager and participant in numerous international and national research projects, and is currently project manager for a project on innovation management and organizational learning granted by Sweden's Innovation Agency. Contact details: [email protected] 

Jonas Sprogøe holds a MA in adult education and a PhD in organizational learning processes. He is a freelance researcher and independent consultant. In his work, Jonas is particularly interested in workplace learning and competence development, and in addition the organizational prerequisites to anchor learning and innovation in practice. Jonas has contributed to several books, and has published articles on organizational learning and management in national and international journals. Contact details: [email protected] 

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