This chapter has explored one of the lacunae in the field of organizational learning, namely how the process of such learning is conditioned by the social identities that people internalize as members of groups within organizations. A monolithic focus on organizational identity at the cost of overlooking that of constituent groups is seen to be theoretically inadequate and practically misleading. Many organizations today contain a wide range of groups with their own social identities, often based on occupation and nationality. These social identities are sustained importantly by what people value as the special capabilities of the groups or communities to which they belong. The knowledge they possess is intrinsic to these capabilities. They are therefore concerned to protect this personal asset and may be cautious about sharing it either with the members of other organizational groups or with management.

Their constituent groups contain potentially valuable learning resources for organizations. The translation of that potential into reality, however, requires certain attributes of managers. They have to be sensitive to the social identities of the relevant groups, establish constructive relationships between the parties to the learning process, and reconcile their perspectives with the organizational needs to which learning is directed. Evidence from case studies indicates that these requirements can be satisfied, principally through two policies. The first is to create ...

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