Munich Personal RePEc Archive

The Learning Organisation and National Systems of Competence Building and Innovation

Lam, Alice and Lundvall, Bengt-Aake (2007): The Learning Organisation and National Systems of Competence Building and Innovation. Published in: (2007)


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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.

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