Improvisation in the learning organization: a defense of the infra-ordinary

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Abstract

Purpose: This paper aims to describe the hidden presence of improvisation in organizations. The authors explore this presence through George Perec’s notion of the infra-ordinary applied to the study of the learning organization and its paradoxes. Design/methodology/approach: Most studies of paradox and improvisation are qualitative and inductive. In this conceptual paper, the authors offer a conceptual debate aiming to redirect conceptual attention on studies belonging to the domains of learning, improvisation and paradox. Findings: The authors defend the thesis that improvisation is an example of a paradoxical practice that belongs to the domain of infra-ordinary rather than, as has been habitually assumed in extant research, the extraordinary. Research limitations/implications: The study draws research attention to the potential of the infra-ordinary in the domains of paradox, improvisation and learning. Practical implications: For practice, the study shows that improvisation can be a relatively trivial organizational practice as people try to solve problems in their everyday lives. Social implications: Most organizations depend upon the capacity of their members to solve problems as these emerge. Yet, organization theory has failed to consider this dimension. As a result, organizations may be unintentionally harming their capacity to learn and adapt to environments by assuming that improvisation is extra-ordinary. Originality/value: The study of paradox and improvisation from an infra-ordinary perspective has not been explicitly attempted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)238-251
JournalLearning Organization
Volume26
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2019

Keywords

  • Improvisation
  • Infra-ordinary
  • Learning organizations

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