Describe the Learning Organization Utilizing the Brain Metaphor

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Andrew Johnson

MGT 501

Mgmt. and Org. Behavior

Dr. John Dudley Eveland

According to Pedler, Burgoyne, & Boydell (1991) a learning organization is defined as a company that facilitates the learning of its members and continuously transforms itself . With that definition, certain characteristics must be evident in the organization. Learning organizations are adaptive to their surroundings, encourage collective and individual learning, constructively utilizes feedback to achieve better results, and has enhanced adaptability (Fargo & Skyrme, 1995). Applying the brain metaphor to organizations, allows us to see how companies operate and how knowledge is shared and disbursed. This metaphor also demonstrates how this knowledge network is critical to the flow of information. Social networking is a key component in the way learning organizations grow and function in today’s budget conscious environment.

Roughly 50% of corporate performance is attributed to responding to change and complexity intelligently (Halal, 1997). A learning organization is more than the sum of all knowledge from individual members because all information is not accessed equally. All information that is stored or processed by members is only accessed when needed. A learning organization involves the development of higher levels of knowledge and skill and encompasses four levels of learning. This goes from the learning basic facts, processes and procedures (level 1); learning transferrable jobs skills (level 2); learning to adapt (level 3); and learning to learn which corresponds to innovation and creativity (level 4 ) (Fargo & Skyrme, 1995). The last two levels are the types of learning that is preferred in learning organizations. Smaller networks being only partially connected increases the possibilities of a learning organization by leading to better utilization of internal and external knowledge . An organization’s real edge comes from having complex, content sensitive knowledge. This core knowledge is found in individual, communities of interest and their connections (Krebs, 1998).

Due to the wide use of social networks, employees are raising the bar for company learning systems. With the ease of use and familiarity of the common social networking applications available i.e. MySpace, facebook, blogger, they have something to compare it to. They expect it to be at that level or better. Social networks such as twitter and facebook are allowing people to connect with each other very readily. Applications are becoming simple and easy to understand. With this is mind it is easier to locate information which is a huge benefit and part of how a learning organization functions. Information must be accessible when it is needed by whomever. Bottom line if the apps are complex and difficult to utilize, people will not use them. In learning organizations social media can serve four purposes: easy contact, information dissemination, rating and tagging, and expert advice. First, most social networking sites allow easy accessibility to information with their search functions. Second, employees are able to provide suggestions and disseminate information rapidly. Third, information can be rated and tagged for future reference. Lastly, experts are able to share expertise in their field to a large forum (Bersin, 2008). This customer specific is very narrow in its scope and limits the number of personnel who would look for this type of information. This narrow audience makes it have much more impact. This is basically what a learning organization needs, smaller networks connected to other smaller networks. Everyone is not going to be connected to everyone. This would not be logical or how an organization functions. People are going to connect with people who have the information they require. Just like a brain, all the neurons and synapses don’t all fire off when you listen to music or read a book. Different areas are...
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