Stories, politics and organizational learning

Joseph Anton Bodor, University of Pennsylvania


This research takes a close look at the political dynamics at Republic National Bank of New York and considers organizational learning as a phenomenon that is inescapably intertwined with the political nature of an organization. The research method for the dissertation is driven by an interpretive approach that uses organizational narratives to provide a basis for a deductive and detailed examination of discrete events and interaction, and how learning processes intersect with management and organizational structures. The existing body of organizational learning literature is peppered with implicit or explicit calls for practitioners to adopt specific political stances to enable them to effectively promote participant learning within their organizations. Frequently, these views have seen learning best elaborated by the mechanisms of managerial control or participant autonomy. This research points to an alternative that enables a more nuanced political approach to organizational learning by considering a third dimension of participation/cooperation drawn from the work of Lave, Wenger and Keidel. This study amplifies the importance of considering the political nature of an organization expressed in its managerial orientation, organizational and management structures and how these might create predispositions for organizational learning. Equally, it also points to the analytic value of Keidel's notion of control, autonomy and cooperation to describe political dynamics that need to occur in some proper combination or mixture to each other to help create learning within organizations. The study suggests that there was a managed autonomy or conversely a managed control at Republic that was accretive to promoting organizational learning. Participants, while being ever mindful of the control exercised by the principal shareholder, saw themselves able to operate autonomously within prescribed bounds. This study lends further empirical support to Lave's assertion that learning in social contexts is conditioned by relationships of power. Furthermore, it sees learning as a basic phenomenon supported by the practice of this organization that generated learning for its members through opportunities to participate.

Subject Area

Educational theory|Management|Adult education|Continuing education|Banking

Recommended Citation

Bodor, Joseph Anton, "Stories, politics and organizational learning" (2006). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3225430.