International Organisational Learning, Knowledge and Capabilities Conference 2019 at the University of Sussex, UK 


In 2019, we are organising the OLKC into two types of tracks – General track and Thematic tracks.

General track invites two types of contributions: 1. Submissions that address the topic of “Human Side of Innovation: Understanding the Role of Interpersonal Relations in an Increasingly Digitised Workplace”, and 2. General submissions broadly concerned with questions of organisational learning, knowledge, innovation and the capabilities that organisations foster or require for operationalising these.

Digital technologies are profoundly reshaping the world of work. The disruption of traditional business models is transforming employment and challenging labour regulations. Faced with rapid advances in automation, artificial intelligence, platform technologies and huge increases in digital data, employers and governments are struggling to cope with and understand the pace and consequences of change, while individuals face new uncertainties over how to become and stay ‘connected’ in turbulent labour markets as well as over their role in increasingly digitised and automated workplaces. Use of learning algorithms for extraction and deployment of expertise (Faraj et al., 2018), impacts that robotic systems have on the re-organisation of working relations (Sergeeva et al., 2018), sociomaterial arrangements that emerge out of bridging the physical and the digital domain (Polykarpou and Barrett, 2017), impact of surveillance practices on the performance of work (Zuboff, 2015), role of policy in labour relations and workplace organisation (Ranft Neufeind et al., 2018) and other new and existing issues are in need of (re-)evaluation in light of the growing digital economy. Indeed, opinion is sharply divided around the potential of digital technologies to boost economic growth and productivity while also delivering good quality jobs and an inclusive vision of social integration. For optimists, the ‘second machine age’ has the ‘power to change the world’ (Brynjolfsson and McAfee 2014: 25) by enabling inclusive and democratic ways of using, generating and sharing resources and capabilities (Barrett et al., 2015; DeVaujani and Vaast, 2015). Pessimists see a dystopian future where robots replace human labour of all skill levels and work is increasingly intensified, monitored and needs based (Constantinides et al., 2018; Frey and Osborne 2017; Spencer 2017; Moore 2018), thus bringing about alienation and greater disparity in income, education and opportunities for majority of the labour pool. While sceptics suggest we need to better informed about how these developments will create winners and losers (Neufeind et al. 2018).

Current debate about the workplace in the digital economy is, however, hampered by considerable hyperbole and speculation. As the recent ESRC scoping exercise on ‘Ways of being in a digital age’ (Yates et al. 2017: 14) notes, current knowledge is ‘predominantly reflective and review based as opposed to being based on empirical data collection’. We therefore ask the question as to what the role of interpersonal relations is going to be in increasingly digitised workplaces? Will improved and increased automation, surveillance, communication and coordination capabilities usher in greater liberation and break down of organisational boundaries, giving way to open sharing and innovation; or are we heading towards an antagonistic future with Luddite values, where human employees compete with automated systems, resist management and restrict knowledge sharing?

OLKC in 2019 aims to bring together diverse scholars with interests in these (and adjacent) topics in order to develop in-depth and interdisciplinary understanding of the trajectories brought about by ongoing exposure of the contemporary workplace to the technologies, methods and philosophies of the digital economy. We welcome a diverse range (e.g., conceptual, empirical, and methodological) of submissions that extend and enhance our knowledge of the aforementioned issues.

Thematic tracks invite contributions that focus on a specific aspect of the general track, in order to survey and build the community, as well as to share latest thinking around questions pertaining to the track. For OLKC 2019, we are excited to invite contributions to the following thematic tracks:

1. Learnings from unintended and unexpected outcomes of innovation

2. Algorithms at work: ethnographies of organizing in the age of datification

3. Deep changes at firm, market and economy-wide level in the era of digitalization and automation