With the decline of some well-established firms, the diminishing competitive power of many companies in a burgeoning world market coupled with and the need for organizational renewal and transformation, interest in organizational learning has grown.
Senior managers in many organizations are convinced of the importance of improving learning in their organizations. This leads us to two important questions: What is a learning organization? And what determines the characteristics of a good learning organization?
Organizational learning is the capacity or processes within an organization to maintain or improve performance based on experience. Learning is a systems- level phenomenon, because, it stays within the organization even if individuals change.
Learning is as much a task as the production and delivery of goods and services. While companies do not usually regard learning as a function of production, research on successful firms indicates that three learning-related factors are important for their success:
1. Well-developed core competencies that serve as launch points for new products and services.
2. An attitude that supports continuous improvement in the business’s value- added chain.
3. The ability to fundamentally renew or revitalize business functions based on need.
These factors identify some of the qualities of an effective learning organization that diligently pursues a constantly enhanced knowledge base. This knowledge allows for the development of competencies and lead to incremental or transformational change. In these instances, there is assimilation and utilization of knowledge and some kind of integrated learning system to support such “actionable learning.” Indeed, an organization’s ability to survive and grow is based on advantages that stem from core competencies that represent collective learning.
The organizational learning process has identifiable stages. These can be generalized as follows:
This stage deals with the development or creation of skills, insights, relationships.
This stage involves the dissemination of the learning’s throughout the organization.
This stage provides the integration of learning so that it is broadly available and can be generalized to new situations.
Organizational learning does not always occur in the linear fashion implied by typical learning models. Learning may take place in planned or informal, often unintended, ways. Moreover, knowledge and skill acquisition takes place in the sharing and utilization stages.
It is not something that occurs simply by organizing an “acquisition effort.” The following are some of the commonly employed orientation by organizations in their quest for effective knowledge dissemination.