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Towards a Theoretical Understanding of the Recurrence of Crises Embracing the Issue of Organizational Learning: An Illustration with the Case of Two Hostile Takeover Bids Faced by Société Générale (1988, 1999)



In this article, we try to better understand the relationship between learning and crisis through the analysis of recurrent crises. Our study focused on two successive and similar crises experienced by the same organization, namely two hostile takeover bids a French bank (Société Générale) had to cope with in 1988 and 1999. From a literature review within the fields of organizational learning and management crisis, we proposed an analytical grid making it possible to get a better understanding of crisis-induced lesson-drawing processes. We then used that grid to analyse and compare the learning processes implemented during the two crises under study. This comparison leads us to suggest that lack of organizational learning is one factor that accounts for crisis recurrence. Conversely, proactive crisis management behaviour – resulting from double-loop learning – seems to be the most fruitful behaviour to adopt in order to prevent a recurrent crisis and produce long-term effects in the organization.