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Policy and Practice: Recursive Learning from Crisis

By Dominic Elliott and Allan Macpherson


The origins of this paper lie in the observation that organizations, frequently, fail to learn from crisis. Drawing from theory in field as diverse as actor network, crisis management, institutional and organizational learning the paper considers the case of the crisis triggered by severe flooding in the UK and Gloucestershire in particular. In this case the available artefacts that were developed prior to the crisis (and afterwards) framed and stabilized a particular set of connections. In this event, the data suggest rigidity amidst a relatively inadequate response. The inadequacy of the response was more marked given the award of Beacon Status to Gloucestershire County Council for its emergency preparedness some months before the extreme weather event. The paper suggests that learning in and from experience, prepares us only to replay what we have learned in order to make sense of and enact practice in a similar scenario; that is, to use that experience to make sense of unfolding events. It is only when a breakdown of coping occurs, when things do not go as intended, that we become aware of the inadequacy of our established practices. We should not be surprised when the lessons we have learned fail to prepare us for unforeseen events, or even when, in similar circumstances, but with different technologies or people involved, outcomes during and after crises are disappointing

Topics: Risk Management, Learning from Crisis, Artefacts, Institutionalization 1 Management School
Year: 2009
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Provided by: CiteSeerX
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