Barriers to learning: Conflicts that occur between and within organisational systems

Jim Grieves, Janice McMillan, Phil Wilding

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    13 Citations (Scopus)


    The paper argues that Organisational Learning (OL), as the underpinning process for Strategic Human Resource Development, has not yet reached a sufficient degree of maturity. This is partly due to an OL literature base that is generally rich in rhetoric but is empirically doubtful. Associated with this is the predominance of research that has tended to underplay the importance of social context, preferring instead to address issues of personal cognition. Studies that do offer empirical findings tend to limit investigation to learning difficulties related to personal characteristics such as learning styles and techniques of facilitation and training interventions. By contrast, we argue that managers should be capable of diagnosing organisational context not simply for learning capability but for organisational constraints that limit the actions of individuals and groups to learn effectively. In order to redress this problem we suggest that greater attention is paid to the structural, cognitive and social barriers to OL. The research results from a review of the literature into barriers to learning and from which thematic constructs were identified. The subsequent survey of managers' views (36 representing 36 organisations) identified the most significant obstacles to organisational learning. Finally, we argue that enhanced performance can only occur when participants clearly diagnose the nature of the problems and resolve them through Action Research.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)86-103
    JournalInternational Journal of Learning and Intellectual Capital
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2006


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