Continuity, Change, and Conflict: The Role of Learning and Knowing in Different Productive Systems, Learning as Work Research Paper, No. 7 July 2006

Alison Fuller, Lorna Unwin, Dan Bishop, Alan Felstead, Nick Jewson, Constantinos B. kavalakis, Tracey Yeadon-Lee

Research output: Working paper


This paper explores the relationship between the way work is organised, the organisational context, and learning in the workplace. It develops, in part, from earlier work where we argued that organisations differ in the way they create and manage themselves as learning environments, with some conceptualised as ‘expansive’ in the sense that their employees experience diverse forms of participation and, hence, are more likely to foster learning at work (see Fuller and Unwin, 2004). The paper argues that contemporary workplaces give rise to many different forms of learning, some of which is utilised to the benefit of the organisation and employees (though not, necessarily, in a reciprocal manner), but much of which is buried within everyday workplace activity. By studying the way in which work is organised (including the organisation of physical and virtual spaces), it is possible to expose some of this learning activity as well as examples of the creation of new (or refined) knowledge. Part of this process involves the breaking down of conceptual hierarchies that presuppose that learning is restricted to certain types of employee and/or parts of an organisation. This paper builds on the work of other researchers who highlight the importance of the context (see, inter alia, Nonaka et al, 2005; Boreham and Morgan, 2004; Unwin et al 2005). It also draws on the work of Engeström (see, inter alia, 2001), who has highlighted the way new knowledge is created through employee interaction when problem solving and, hence, has paid attention to the important question of the quality of learning in the workplace. In addition, it builds on Wilkinson’s (2002) conceptualisation of the way organisations construct, manage and respond to social relations of production that operate at a variety of levels in ‘productive systems’. The paper uses evidence from the ‘learning as work’ project, which is based in public and private sector organisations in the UK.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherCardiff University
Number of pages31
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2006


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