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Attitudes Towards Learning Affect Partner Collaborations

This paper examines how attitudes towards learning in the context of inter-organizational collaboration affect how partners interact. The findings suggest attitudes towards mutual learning are complex, varied and can influence the outcome of the collaboration.


As interest in collaborative relationships has increased in recent years, so has the interest towards learning from collaboration. One area that has been investigated is the partner attitudes towards learning. Most research on the effect of attitudes towards learning has identified one or two attitudes on learning outcomes, providing partial explanations for those outcomes. Based on the literature, the authors identify and describe four basic attitudes(sidelining, selfishness, sharing and exchanging, and sharing and exploring) as combinations of other underlying views towards giving knowledge and receiving knowledge.


Attitudes towards learning in collaboration are complex. Attitudes are combinations of stances that characterize how one reacts towards “giving” knowledge and towards “receiving” knowledge. For instance, learning from and with partners may be considered too costly compared to the value of the knowledge that could be acquired.

Implications for Managers

  • This research provides some explanation for low levels of learning in some contexts. Adopting the right attitude towards learning can contribute to collaboration success.

  • The ability of an organization to learn in the context of collaboration is a “two-way” affair, meaning that it relies on the interaction of inter-partner attitudes towards learning.

Implications for Researchers

Recognizing that learning through collaboration is “two-way” challenges the assumptions made about behavior in other works, and adds to single-organization explanations for successful learning and knowledge transfer.


The authors conducted a research-oriented action research, which is characterized by the participation of the researcher. The data for this research was obtained during the researchers’ involvement in eight collaboration development interventions, and relies on the researchers’ notes taken during this time.

Huxham. Chris, & Hibbert, Paul. 2008. Manifested attitudes: Intricacies of inter-partner learning in collaboration. Journal of Management Studies, 45(3): 502-529.

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