Learning and Crisis
Learning and Crisis
- Edward DeverellEdward DeverellDepartment of Security, Strategy, and Leadership, Swedish Defense University
Crises shake societies and organizations to their foundation. Public authorities, private companies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and members of the general public all have a role to play in managing crises. From a public administration perspective, however, responsibility clearly falls on politicians and strategic decision makers in public authorities. The task to manage crises is getting increasingly challenging, with more actors and sectors involved, unclear lines of accountability, and close connections between risks, organizations, networks, and interests. This means that the fundamental opportunity to improve structures for crisis management and preparedness, which requires learning from previous experiences, is increasing in salience. Previous research into the political dimensions of crisis management holds that learning is a key part of crisis management and a fundamental challenge to crisis leadership. The criteria that set crises apart from day-to-day work—that is, core values at stake, time pressure, and substantial uncertainty—also challenge the learning parts of crisis management. Learning in relation to crisis is essential for earnest investigation into what went wrong and why the crisis occurred, and, moreover, to make sure that it does not happen again. As organizations play a key role in crisis management, organizational learning is a useful concept to explore learning in relation to crises. Furthermore, the concept of crisis-induced learning has proven salient in bridging the literatures of crisis management and learning. Crisis-induced learning is understood as purposeful efforts, triggered by a perceived crisis and carried out by members of an organization working within a community of inquiry. These efforts, in turn, lead to new understanding and behavior on the basis of that understanding. The concept of crisis-induced learning can help add clarity to what learning is in relation to crises and who the learning agents are in these processes. Other important theorizing efforts in bridging crisis and learning include categorizing learning into its cognitive and behavioral aspects as well as its temporal aspects including inter- and intra-crisis learning. Finally, relating to issues of methodology, it is useful to distil ways to measure and analyze learning and to explain how crisis-induced learning is distinguished from other types of experiential learning.
- Governance/Political Change
- Policy, Administration, and Bureaucracy