In recent decades the concept of the ‘learning organisation’ has emerged as a prominent discourse in management and business studies (Argyris and Sch_n, 1978; Marquardt and Reynolds, 1994; Senge, 1990; Stahl, 1993). The concept is closely related to, and overlaps with, other business and management concepts, such as human asset accounting, human resource management, information resource management, business process re-engineering, information management, knowledge asset management and knowledge management (Abell and Oxbrow, 2001; Albert and Bradley, 1997, pp. 66-72; Best, 1996; Earl, 1988; Hammer and Champy, 1993; Koenig, 2000; Megil, 1997; Mentzas et al, 2003; Mertins, Heisig and Vorbeck, 2003; Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995; Special Libraries Association, 1997; Schwartz, 2006).1 Each of these discourses challenges the traditional view of labour as a cost, its value being increased as expenditure on it falls; rather, each conceptualises labour as an asset in the form of ‘human capital’, and specifically as an investment in intellectual capital. For their value to increase, an organisation’s assets have to be not only protected but also enhanced. Labour is no different in this regard. Its value can be boosted by training and by improvements in infrastructure, both of which raise productivity. The value of labour can also be increased by providing it with information, which is internalised as knowledge. In
1 Much of the literature on the learning organisation and on associated concepts like knowledge management is motivational and non-critical. The work of scholars like Day (2001), Fuller (2002), Hodgson (1999) and T. Wilson (2002) take a more detached view. Bryant (2006, p. 1) believes that: ‘The term itself ought to promote more uneasiness than it appears to do so … and should be viewed with less enthusiasm and more suspicion.’ Nunes (2006, pp. 102-3) provides evidence that enthusiasm for knowledge management is fading: knowledge management budgets and departments have been slashed; it is increasingly outsourced; there are fewer best-selling books on the subject; critiques of it have increased in number significantly; and there are far fewer chief knowledge managers in corporations since five years ago. See also, Tom Wilson’s letter to the Library Association Record, Vol. 104, No. 3 (March 2002), p. 157.