Organizational learning and emotion: constructing collective meaning in support of strategic themes

Helen Shipton*, John Sillince

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Missing in the organizational learning literature is an integrative framework that reflects the emotional as well as the cognitive dynamics involved. Here, we take a step in this direction by focusing in depth over time (five years) on a selected organization which manufactures electronic equipment for the office industry. Drawing on personal construct theory, we define organizational learning as the collective re-construal of meaning in the direction of strategically significant themes. We suggest that emotions arise as members reflect on progress or lack of progress in achieving organizational learning. Our evidence suggests that invalidation - where organizational learning fails to correspond with expectations - gives rise to anxiety and frustration, while validation - where organizational learning is aligned with or exceeds expectations - evokes comfort or excitement. Our work aims to capture the key emotions involved as organizational learning proceeds.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)493-510
Number of pages18
JournalManagement Learning
Issue number5
Early online date3 Jul 2012
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • emotions
  • organizational learning
  • personal construct theory
  • strategy
  • validation and invalidation


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