Between product development and mass production: Tensions as triggers for concept-level learning

Meri Jalonen*, Päivi Ristimäki, Hanna Toiviainen, Anneli Pulkkis, Mika Lohtander

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
301 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose – This paper aims to analyze learning in organizational transformations by focusing on concept-level tensions faced in two young companies, which were searching for a reorientation of activity with a production network between innovative product development and efficient mass production. Design/methodology/approach – An intervention-based research project was carried out with two manufacturing companies. The data originate from workshops, whose aim was to identify learning needs based on the discussion of practices of networked production. Concept-level learning is analyzed by examining the dynamic relationships between production concepts and product concepts. Findings – The most influential concept-level tension stemmed from the co-existence of two production concepts, product development and mass production, which manifested as ambiguity about proper actions in the production network. Other focal tensions were identified between the production and product concepts and within the companies’ network relationships. The dominance of the mass production concept restricted the envisioning of new modes of collaboration and mutual learning in the production network. Research limitations/implications – The workshop participants did not include representatives from the case companies’ production network. Nevertheless, researchers brought the network partners’ conceptions into the workshop discussion through the presented mirror data. Practical implications – Companies striving to develop novel production concepts that call for continuous collaboration with customers and suppliers need forums for mutual learning to create solutions to concept-level tensions. Originality/value – Companies may develop two production concepts over lengthy periods. The tensions that manifest due to incoherent guiding logics may be overcome by engaging in incremental and expansive concept-level learning, directed at the identification of relationships between production and product concepts.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-48
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Workplace Learning
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Learning intervention
  • Mass production
  • Networks
  • Product concept
  • Production concept
  • Tension


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