University of Oulu

Expansive learning in a self-managed organization : an example of a software company from the healthcare sector

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Author: Ekl, Kryštof1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Education, Educational Sciences
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1 MB)
Pages: 61
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Oulu : K. Ekl, 2023
Publish Date: 2023-06-16
Thesis type: Master's thesis
Tutor: Kajamaa, Anu
Mäkkeli, Jori
Reviewer: Suorsa, Teemu
Kajamaa, Anu


This is the first study applying cultural-historical activity theory to the study of a self-managed organization. The study presents an analysis of Oima, a self-managed organization. The theory of expansive learning and previous literature on self-managed organizations are used as the theoretical and methodological underpinnings of this study. A self-managed organization is one where authority has been radically decentralized in a formal and systematic way throughout the organization. The aim of the study is to identify the features of Oima as a self-managed organization, the elements of its overall activity, and the indications of expansive learning taking place in this organization. To achieve this, in-depth interviews were conducted with seven employees, who together make up 20% of the company workforce, with various functional specializations. The data were analyzed using thematic abductive analysis and by applying analytical tools derived from cultural-historical activity theory. The results of this study show that the object of Oima’s activity is multifaceted, facilitating flexible updating of the company’s objects, rules, and practices. Furthermore, the practices used by the company turn every decision made into a potentially expansive micro-cycle of expansive learning. Altogether, the findings indicate that expansive micro-cycles are continuously taking place in the studied organization. However, their activity is not without tension and contradictions. This provides evidence that self-managed organizations are able to constantly turn contradictions into drivers for change and development, and to bridge discontinuities in expansive learning, leading to expansion of the object of their collective activity on an ongoing basis.

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Copyright information: © Kryštof Ekl, 2023. Except otherwise noted, the reuse of this document is authorised under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC-BY 4.0) licence ( This means that reuse is allowed provided appropriate credit is given and any changes are indicated. For any use or reproduction of elements that are not owned by the author(s), permission may need to be directly from the respective right holders.