Learning from Disasters: A ‘Framing’ Perspective

Was the launch of Siri a “disaster”? Depends on how you frame it. (Foto, CC BY-SA 2.0

This research essay is authored by Melissa Köhler, student in the master program Organization Studies at University of Innsbruck.

‘We do not learn from experiences… we learn from reflecting on experiences.’ (John Dewey)

Unexpected and unusual incidents in organizational life often result in a change from stable conditions into situations that are ‘far from equilibrium’ (Rudolph and Repenning, 2002). Even if undesirable incidents entail an organizational breakdown and misery, organizations can try to make sense of the circumstances. They have the possibility to reflect and learn in order to prevent such occasions, or to improve their response the next time. To understand how organizations learn from disasters, current scientific literature mainly analyzes very popular incidents such as the Mount Everest climbing accident in 1996 or natural catastrophes. In order to gain substantial insights on how organizations learn from disastrous situations, this focus on extreme incidents seems quite narrow-minded. Who defines whether a specific event is a disaster or not? A ‘Framing’ perspective could help to induce a better understanding on how organizations learn from such situations.

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New Category at the ConJunction Blog: Student Research Essays

In some Organization Studies courses, students are required to write a short research essay, addressing one focused question or thesis related to the course topic. These essays are distinct from ‘ordinary’ seminar or term papers not only due to their short length but also because the students are encouraged to take a clear, maybe even provocative stance.

Foto: Bernhard Ginzler, CC-BY 4.0)
Foto: Bernhard Gitzler, CC-BY 4.0)

Reading these essays, Richard Weiskopf and I have regularly encountered works that were of such excellent quality that we think it would be a waste to just grade them. Rather, we have – and will continue to do so – asked authors of such essays to share them with a wider audience here at the ConJunction Community Blog.

The first two essays in what we hope will be an ongoing series, have been provided by Cäcilia Bart and Hannes Henzinger. While both essays deal with Jazz as a metaphor for organizing, they contribute quite different insights. Stay tuned for these and future student essays.