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The Learning Organisation and National Systems of Competence Building and Innovation


  • Lam, Alice
  • Lundvall, Bengt-Aake


This paper is based on a hypothesis that we have entered a specific phase of economic development, which we refer to as the 'learning economy', where knowledge and learning have become more important than in any earlier historical period. In this new context the learning capability of firms located in the domestic economy becomes a major concern for national governments and, at the same time, the national infrastructure supporting knowledge creation, diffusion and use becomes a concern for management and employees. To get the two to match and support each other becomes a prerequisite for economic success for firms as well as for the national economy. One of the main objectives of this paper is to demonstrate that societal institutions, which may exist at the national or regional levels, shape the types of organisational learning predominating at the level of the firm. The paper develops the concept of a 'national system of competence building and innovation' by linking national specificities in the formation of skills and labour market dynamics to the micro-level processes of knowledge creation and learning within and between firms. It uses the examples of Japan, Denmark and the high-technology clusters in the US and UK to illustrate the logic of institutionalised variation in patterns of learning and innovation. The paper argues that tacit knowledge, which is difficult to create and transfer in the absence of social interaction and labour mobility, constitutes a most important source of learning and sustainable competitive advantage. Learning builds on trust and social capital. Institutions that are able to imbue these elements into firms and markets encourage interactive learning and are more likely to produce strong innovative capabilities.

Suggested Citation

  • Lam, Alice & Lundvall, Bengt-Aake, 2007. "The Learning Organisation and National Systems of Competence Building and Innovation," MPRA Paper 12320, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:12320

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bengt-Åke Lundvall & Jesper Lindgaard Christensen, 1999. "Extending and Deepening the Analysis of Innovation Systems - with Empirical Illustrations from the DISCO-project," DRUID Working Papers 99-12, DRUID, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy/Aalborg University, Department of Business Studies.
    2. Clive Lawson & Edward Lorenz, 1999. "Collective Learning, Tacit Knowledge and Regional Innovative Capacity," Regional Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 33(4), pages 305-317.
    3. Alice Lam, 1996. "Engineers, Management And Work Organization: A Comparative Analysis Of Engineers' Work Roles In British And Japanese Electronics Firms," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 33(2), pages 183-212, March.
    4. Bengt-Âke Lundvall & Peter Nielsen, 1999. "Competition and transformation in the learning economy - Illustrated by the Danish case," Revue d'Économie Industrielle, Programme National Persée, vol. 88(1), pages 67-89.
    5. Freeman, Chris, 1995. "The 'National System of Innovation' in Historical Perspective," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 19(1), pages 5-24, February.
    6. Alice Lam, 2003. "Organizational Learning in Multinationals: R&D Networks of Japanese and US MNEs in the UK," Journal of Management Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 40(3), pages 673-703, May.
    7. David Soskice, 1997. "German technology policy, innovation, and national institutional frameworks," Industry and Innovation, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 4(1), pages 75-96.
    8. Allan Næs Gjerding, 1996. "Organisational Innovation in the Danish Private Business Sector," DRUID Working Papers 96-16, DRUID, Copenhagen Business School, Department of Industrial Economics and Strategy/Aalborg University, Department of Business Studies.
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    Cited by:

    1. Lam, Alice, 2008. "The Tacit Knowledge Problem in Multinational Corporations: Japanese and US Offshore Knowledge Incubators," MPRA Paper 11487, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Abdirahman, Zam-Zam & Sauvee, Loic, 2012. "The Implementation of a Quality Management Standard in a Food SME: A Network Learning Perspective," International Journal on Food System Dynamics, International Center for Management, Communication, and Research, vol. 3(3).
    3. Wawan Dhewanto & Donald Crestofel Lantu & Sri Herliana & Anggraeni Permatasari, 2016. "The obstacles for science technology parks in a developing country," International Journal of Technological Learning, Innovation and Development, Inderscience Enterprises Ltd, vol. 8(1), pages 4-19.

    More about this item


    learning organisations; learning economy; knowledge creation; national innovation systems; institutions; tacit knowledge; competence building;

    JEL classification:

    • L2 - Industrial Organization - - Firm Objectives, Organization, and Behavior
    • O31 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Innovation; Research and Development; Technological Change; Intellectual Property Rights - - - Innovation and Invention: Processes and Incentives
    • M10 - Business Administration and Business Economics; Marketing; Accounting; Personnel Economics - - Business Administration - - - General


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