The innovation paradox: a critical review of the literature on innovation and action learning

Mike Pedler, Cheryl Brook

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    This is a literature review which aims to explore selective literatures in action learning and innovation in order to illuminate insights into the gap between innovation, engagement and implementation in practice. We conducted a search for articles in the action learning field with titles, keywords or abstracts which mentioned innovation, beginning with work by Revans which highlighted our central concern : the innovation paradox. Our investigation took in books, but was principally focused on journal articles. We then explored the innovation literature, with a particular emphasis in our search on titles, key words and abstracts which mentioned ‘service innovation’ and ‘organisational learning’. In essence, our review suggests that paradox theory may be a useful way of thinking about the problem of the resistances to, and the failures of, innovation, and that action learning may offer up a useful space in which the innovation paradox might be worked upon. The study is limited to a review of the extant literature and offers no empirical evidence to support its conclusions. Further research could focus on such questions as why innovation remains so elusive, and how might the practice of critical action learning help to enhance innovative capacity and capability.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)216-229
    Number of pages14
    JournalAction Learning: Research and Practice
    Issue number3
    Early online date5 Jun 2017
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2017


    • innovation
    • action learning
    • paradox


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