Cognitive and practice-based theories of organizational knowledge and learning: incompatible or complementary?

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Cognitive and practice-based approaches to organizational knowledge and learning are typically portrayed as incommensurable, with the result that there has been little positive dialogue between the two traditions. This article argues that the incompatibility of the two sets of approaches has been overstated and that there is actually much that each can learn from the other. Cognitive approaches, which have often been accused of offering an effectively individualized, static and representationalist understanding of organizational knowledge, can benefit from taking on board the practice-based view of knowledge as historically, culturally and socially situated. However, the article also suggests that practice-based theories would do well to draw insights from cognitive approaches, particularly regarding the role of cognitive frameworks or schemas in guiding knowledge processes. To provide an example of how cognitive and practice-based approaches can be integrated, the latter part of the article offers an empirical illustration of how a team of consulting engineers represent and perform alternative schemas of project work through their day-to-day practices.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)413-435
Number of pages23
JournalManagement Learning
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2008


  • Cognition
  • Practice
  • Project management
  • Schemas
  • Social norms and rules


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