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Transforming Organization Learning to Optimize Productivity

Rezension / Literaturbericht 2014 19 Seiten

Führung und Personal - Sonstiges





Definitions of organization learning

Learning process in the organization:

Organization Learning Theories

Organization learning disabilities

Characteristics of successful organizations learning




Transforming Organization Learning

The survival of an organization in today’s turbulent world depends on learning. Organizational learning helps the firms to retain and improve competitiveness, productivity and innovative abilities in ambivalent markets. Consequently, firms have heavily invested in learning resulting in the wide range of skills in their repertoire. However, the wide ranges of the skills have not been fully utilized by the organization. Such organizations are experiencing knowledge depreciation and learning redundant cycle, absorbing new information and new competencies with no fundamental shift. (Heldman, 2011) These organizations are characterized as rigid and bureaucratic with systems and structures; creating learning disabilities opposed to knowledge sharing, flexibility, learning culture and innovations. Nevertheless, organizations that benefit from learning are organized structurally and culturally to capture and share learning, promoting inquiry and dialog and collaboration and team learning is highly encouraged. Castanede & Rio (2007) also hints that absence of knowledge sharing amount to zero learning in the organization because organizational learning and knowledge sharing are inextricably linked. There is a need to invest in learning that brings results exemplified by a functional organization that captures knowledge and uses evidence base approach as opposed to the authority-based approach in addressing the issues arising in the organizations. The organizations need to adapt tactics that do not reward the status quo in addition to being neutral to the conflicting and competing interests of the few in favor of successful organizational learning. This article, therefore, seeks to highlights scattered and jumbled literature about the secrets lurking in functional companies and learning disabilities in dysfunctional organizations

Keywords: organization learning, redundant learning cycle, organization structure, functional organization, Knowledge sharing,


The world’s turbulence is at its’ apogee, now being experienced in every aspect of human life. The steep global competition is attributed to the explosion of information technology and the emergence of knowledge-based economy is the turbulence that is reshaping the business world. (Davis, Barbara, & Daley, 2008);(Baxter, Thomas, Connolly &Stansfield, 2009) The contemporary organization must move with the turbulence to avoids the risk of being extinct in their products and services. It is paramount that organization should react to the evolving social and fluctuating environmental conditions where they reside in order to withstand the instabilities. (Choppin, 1997; Austin, 2008; Curado, 2007) Surviving the instability mandates the organizational to change in order to keep up with the pressure. To manage these instabilities and changes, an organization will have to learn. It is perceived that learning helps organizations to remain modern in their services and products. Learning is a driving force that gives the firms the ability to launch products and services of high, quality and at the same time improving the operations effectiveness in the organizations. Therefore, these kinds of organizations that have embraced learning will be capable of competing with others at the international level. Although Learning, according to Schulz (2011) brings improvement in performance; environment should be conducive to learning to make some impacts. This same perspective is emphasized by (Davis, 2008) when they state that the organization should create conditions, systems, and structures that are receptive to acquisition of continuous knowledge. The ideas or learned knowledge transforms the organization in combination with other internal forces within the organization.

However, there are many factors that determine the productivity or the benefits of learning in an organization. Although learning is critical to the organization survival, some organizations have continued to experience failure despite their effort to invest in learning. These organizations have embraced learning that has no returns on the investment.(Davis, 2008) argues that Such firms are experiencing the paradox of the organization learning instead. Very important ingredients of learning are missing in these organizations that are investing in profitless learning. Heldman (2011) asserts that organizations are capable of learning; nevertheless learning disabilities do exist in some organization that impedes learning. He further refers such organization exhibiting the fallacy of learning as dysfunctional. Curado (2006), also echoes the same idea in his argument that most of the organizations have failed to learn, because they have engaged in a fruitless learning effort that is non- result oriented. Therefore, their effort to attain competitive success through learning fails. Profitless learning in the organization is characterized by a lack of clear and measurable goals of how knowledge will improve performance. Moreover, organizational infrastructure to support learning is missing. On the hand, learning has yielded great benefits to many organizations with systems in place that support learning and allows the diffusion of learning at all levels. These kinds of organizations are deemed to be innovative and progressive with strategies and insights that make them receptive to learning (Heldman, 2011). This article, therefore, seeks to highlight the secrets lurking in functional organizations and learning disabilities in dysfunctional organizations.

Definitions of organization learning

Organization learning is the acquisition of knowledge attitude and skills for its’ employees with ‘the aim of improving performance and production. These knowledge, skills and attitudes acquired add up to the already existing knowledge. Learning is continuous in the organization and deemed appropriate by the leadership if the existing knowledge fails to deliver results or in other words if the organization experiences knowledge depreciation. Learning does not take place in seclusion but occurs within the organization context. (Baxter at al,. 2009) refers organization learning as interactions of individuals sharing knowledge where learning becomes a social process with a possibility of development of new values and ideas from the individuals sharing knowledge. The source of new ideas, which appends to the existing knowledge, does not only come from the organization members but also from outside, especially when the organization is anticipating change. These external sources may be from; training, the influence of the consultants, overseas visit, and conferences attended by some members or feedback from the customers and ideas from other organizations. Addleson (2007) defines organizational learning as the progression of change in individual and shared thought and action, which is entrenched in the institutions. The commonalities in individuals like shared norms and values are perceived to be indicative of organization learning rather than individual learning.

The definitions of the organization learning stated above, however, are heavily biased on the behaviorist focusing on the process and, therefore, devoid of other disciplines that directly affects the organization existence. Organization is complex because it is multifarious in nature, therefore understanding organization learning requires a multidisciplinary approach to its’ definition. Dogdson, (1992) observed that adopting the multidisciplinary approach to studying to define the organization improved the understanding of the organization learning. Organization encompasses all the discipline ranging from management, economist, behaviorist, industrial economist, historians, economist business, and innovative studies. Organization learning is envisaged by each discipline approach to bring different effect on the organization in that particular discipline areas, for instance the economic historians have studied the important of organization learning in bringing new industries and technologist the economist believes that learning affects productivity, the business and the management associate learning with its’ ability to give ideas on dynamic capabilities and the theory of strategic management while the innovation fundamentalists believe in planned management that brings new productions. (Baxter at al,. 2009)

The multidisciplinary approach does not only influence the definition of organization learning but also the goals of the organization. Considering the various disciplines, for instance, the economist, envisions that organization learning has influence on the behavior of the employee in that they become effective and their efficiencies further increases production. According to the economists learning, is defined as quantifiable improvement of activities or on ill-defined outcome. The management and business perceive that learning shall give the business a competitive advantage because learning is strategic in nature and the business must produce superior or unparalleled services and products in the markets. On the contrary, the innovation idealizes that learning is capable of bringing unique business practices that bring unique services and products in the markets (Dodgson 1993)

Learning process in the organization:

The definitions, goals, and benefits of learning highlighted by the economist, business and management have only focused on the learning outcome. However, for the psychologist and the behaviorist (organization theory of the firms) have an addition focus on both the outcome and process of learning in the firm. There are several definition based on social and cognitive theory that explains the process and the outcome of learning, for instance Nerneth (1997) defines organization learning as knowledge acquisition which impacts organization activities for effectiveness, which results to improved performance. Organization learning is also defined as the process of improving actions through better knowledge and understanding. The process of learning in the organization involves an individual and groups. Group and individual learning have spurred a lot of conflicts with the views of the organization learning process. As a result, there are different views about organization learning in relation to group, and individual learning in the organization learning literature. The first view of organization learning according to (Baxter at al,. 2009) is that it is individual learning. However, it is refuted by Castaneda & Rios (2007;Dodgson 1993) in their observation that organization learning is not solely individual process, consequently individual learning is not the same as organization learning. Individual learning becomes organization learning when the individuals transfer his ideas to the organization through knowledge sharing. (Baxter at al,. 2009) have argued that learning cannot occur in the organization unless its start with individual before its advances further to groups learning or communities of practice. This means that learning is based on the individual who is the primary facilitator of learning within the organization context. It is surmised that individual forms the basics of organization learning. Subsequently organizational learning cannot occur without the existence of the individual learner. The individual learn by attending to new ways of life pertaining to culture and also performance in the organization from feedback, learning from the peers and also from the mentors and coaches. Individual learning is a conscious effort occurring when the individual gives attention to anything new and integrates it in the routines. (Davis, at al,. 2008)



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organisation learning redundant learning cycle organization structure functuinal organisation knowledge sharing



Titel: Transforming Organization Learning to Optimize Productivity