Someone reminded me that training budgets were the first to go in recession, and obviously that does not mean the organizations are serious about learning. I do think that it is that straightforward, and current budget cuts may indeed have been prompted by real difficulties in the market place, but it gives out the wrong signal.
The point is, okay, that the organizations NEED to get more serious about learning. Because the world is changing again - from the way business is done, to the buyer-seller composition. New ideas and challenges will emerge now, as it always does in the aftermath of a bruising economic crisis. Deep recessions like this always keep claiming their victims long after they have lost prime time presence, possibly because of the panic button reactions sometimes stop organizations from learning and moving forward.
It will be interesting to study how successful organizations deal with deep recession. We have already got some literature on how the successful organizations dealt with the previous recessions of 1930s and 1970s. We also have some emerging research on the organizational response of the dotcom bust, and we are just about starting to get the perspective on who survived and who didn't. In all recessions, we have stories like Cisco and Sun, two star companies who were both hit, but follows two different paths thereafter. And Sony and Apple, I could have added, but they started at different points during the post-dotcom era. But, while we wait, we know the general strands - some put their head down, do their job and look for opportunities; others hit the panic button and freeze, which never helps.