Edwards M.G.. 2009. An integrative meta theory for organisational learning and sustainability in turbulent times. The Learning Organization. 16


Proposes a meta-theoretical approach to organizational learning for sustainability issues.

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Key Findings: 

There is increasing pressure for organisational accountability and performance measurement, not only to their immediate shareholders but in terms of their broader environmental and social responsibility. From a research and theory building perspective, this requires an alternative view of organisations and organisational activity in ways that reflect the multiplicity of views in a wider social context. This article argues that meta-theory approaches are a way to incorporate these multiple perspectives. This approach presents an alternative to conventional economic and organisational theories, which tend to limit understanding to “unit-level” thinking. Locating theoretical positions in a broader framework encourages greater critical questioning of theories and provides a sound conceptual platform from which to engage with transformative processes in dynamic and uncertain environments.


By drawing multiple theories under the umbrella of a meta-theory, opportunities for learning can be enhanced where single theory approaches can lead to fragmentation and even parochial positioning. Similarly, by combining a number of conceptual lenses, meta-theory can create an orienting perspective where single theory may tend to become isolated. Adaptive learning is essentially a meta-theory approach. It attempts to draw together multiple theories of learning and various conceptual lenses to provide an orienting framework that embodies a multiplicity of perspectives.