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Process, Sensemaking, and Organizing$
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Tor Hernes and Sally Maitlis

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199594566

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199594566.001.0001

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Organizational Learning through Problem Absorption: A Processual View

Organizational Learning through Problem Absorption: A Processual View

(p.185) 10 Organizational Learning through Problem Absorption: A Processual View
Process, Sensemaking, and Organizing

Sergey E. Osadchiy

Irma Bogenrieder

Pursey P. M. A. R. Heugens (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

In organizations, existing codified rules are often used as the basis for solving new problems even when this means stretching those rules. Such “absorption” of new problems by rules reduces the need to explore and develop new solutions and to encode those solutions into new rules. In the present chapter we examine the phenomenon of “problem absorption” more closely from the process perspective and conceptualize it as a micro‐level form of “semantic learning.” Contrary to previous literature, we argue that problem absorption does not necessarily reinforce existing rules and prevent the search for alternatives. We thus contribute to the literature on organizational learning and rule dynamics by showing how under certain conditions the cumulative effects of semantic learning via repeated absorption of novel problems by formal rules can give rise to higher‐level learning that has the potential to transform the organization's rule system.

Keywords:   organizational learning, problems, written rules, reflexivity, formal organization, processual view

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