Paradoxical Tensions in Learning Processes : Exploration, Exploitation and Exploitative Learning
Research on organizational paradoxes, notably the learning/performing paradox, have demonstrated the potential value of a detailed analysis of tensions resulting from the need to develop future capabilities, while simultaneously guaranteeing success in the present. But analyzing this paradox exclusively from the perspective of the antagonism between exploration and exploitation masks tensions of a different nature linked to phenomena concerning the transmission, extension and replication of existing capabilities. In this article we apply a concept deriving from the field of project management, namely exploitative learning, which provides a broader appreciation of the diversity of learning processes located in the grey area between exploration and exploitation. Empirically, we will focus on the study of tensions between exploitative learning and performing perceived by the actors in an industrial infrastructure engineering unit simultaneously developing a number of different projects and taking on new recruits. It transpires that learning processes associated with the development of teams for new projects and the training of numerous recruits can, at the macro- and microstructural levels, run counter to short-term logics of performance, thereby threatening the development of future capabilities. Our study makes it possible to broaden the terms by which the learning/performing paradox is defined. It also enriches our understanding of exploitative learning situations by demonstrating that they require both an allocation in terms of human resources and an investment in terms of time, approaches that are hard to reconcile with short-term goals.
Copyright (c) 2015 Frédéric Garcias, Cédric Dalmasso, Jean-Claude Sardas
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