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I discuss a qualitative case study of a Hong Kong-based utility company where commercial imperatives drove, but also circumscribed, development toward ‘Learning Organization’ (LO) ideals. The case illuminates the paradox of promoting greater openness and creativity through top down sensegiving, as many managers and professionals participated in collective development towards LO ideals, but were seduced into what nearly became a propaganda trap. The case also highlights the importance of honouring psychological contracts, in that a covenant with the workforce, which leveraged the company’s dominant industry position, restored an atmosphere of mutuality with a marginalized rump. Noting that the focal company may have been blessed with relatively munificent circumstances, I conclude by identifying four viability tasks that aspiring LOs may need to perform continually in order to forestall resentment and disillusion.


HKIBS Working Paper Series 042-001

Recommended Citation

Snell, R. S. (2001). Developing as a learning organization: A Hong Kong case of sensegiving and career contracts (HKIBS Working Paper Series 042-001). Retrieved from Lingnan University website:

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