The first studies on organizational learning borrowed from the behavioral psychology and cognitivist the concept of learning, making a transposition to the organization of the concepts elaborated at the level of the individual. Consequently, an analogy between the mind and the organization was elaborated, hypothesizing in the latter the presence of mental schemes and cognitive structures and identifying only the management of the functions of thinking and learning (Gherardi, Nicolini, 2004).
In this regard, a first epistemological hypothesis on learning is that which has studied it as a cognitive phenomenon, ie as a process that mainly involves the mental activities of the individual subject. In this sense, a definition of learning is affirmed “as a process that takes place in people’s heads or minds. This mentalistic conception of learning represents the continuation of the Cartesian tradition of the separation of body and mind and of the primacy of thought over the sensible world “(ibidem, p.29). It is implicitly admitted that both thinking dominates actions and that cognitive processing presides over any cognitive process by interpreting the mind as an information processor. It follows that learning can be studied in its individual dimensions and,
In these terms, learning has been relegated to formal places of education and therefore separated from work (usually the first precedes the second) (Gherardi, Nicolini, Odella, 1998).
In contrast to this line of research, a second survey track shows the phenomenon of learning to a more complex interaction and comparison between the individual activity of elaboration-construction of information and the social-organizational context of reference. This approach is part of a macroparadigma called socio-cultural constructivism (Varisco, 2002), which interprets “cognitive development and the articulation of learning and knowledge building processes as modeled by the cultural contexts in which they are produced, that provide them with constitutive and essential elements “(Striano, 2003, p.67).
This last position attests around the idea that learning can not be studied as an abstract phenomenon but as an expression of participation, of becoming a member of a community because for the transmission of knowledge, the acquisition of skills and the relational development identity become central social relations, the artifacts with which we learn, the quality of experiences and their significance, the activation of reflective thoughts. This means that first of all learning is located in the field of interaction and material conditions (Lave, Wenger, 2006). In other words, it is recognized that significant knowledge develops through participation in a practice, be it discursive or otherwise.
Studies that looked at learning as an individual phenomenon come to be questioned by the underlying hypothesis that learning is a phenomenon that intrinsically connects with a context in which it not only takes shape, but also entrenched in it. In this regard, the situated learning theory focuses on the social conditions of knowledge-building processes and attempts to overcome the separation / opposition between theory and practice, interpreting learning as an eminently social activity, and in this sense connoted more or less implicitly by political and ideological demands. The processes of knowledge building come to be enriched by readings that unmask its social and historical dimension,
In this sense, since the 1990s, there has been a change in the literature on individual learning that has given rise to the possibility of studying with different lenses the processes of learning and organizational innovation (White et al., 2005). Previously, the hypotheses about learning tended to favor explicit and abstract knowledge as the information acquired by individuals in the form of ideas, facts and concepts. In contrast, organizational learning and practice community studies (Wenger, 1998) have shown that learning outcomes can be identified in routines, dialogues, symbols, etc. (Blackler 1995).