This paper explores the implications of the learning organization phenomenon for the training and development field. In particular, it considers the following questions: what is a learning organization? - how and why has this phenomenon come about?; does the pursuit to become a learning organization signal a greater or lesser role for the training profession?; and what is or should be the role of training in learning organizations?
Today, the rapid pace of change that we all experience demands an unparalleled learning response from organizations (Bennett, 1994). Major economic, social and technological pressures from all around the globe have dramatically altered the environment within which organizations must perform. Rapidly evolving technology, increasing global interdependency, shifting economic bases, diminishing natural resources and a more diverse workforce are just some of the competing tensions that come into play. Organizations that fail to adapt to these environmental pressures in a quick, flexible and comprehensive fashion will cease to exist. Today more than ever before, survival of the fittest means survival of the 'fittest to learn' (Marquardt, 1996). The popular term used to describe this regenerative organizational species is the 'learning organization'.
For the past decade, the learning organization has been a 'hot topic' (Peters, 1992; Tobin, 1998), both in the scholarly and practitioner press (Easterby-Smith et al., 1998) - and, why wouldn't it be? In a world characterized by continuous discontinuity, ambiguity and paradox (Pascale, 1990; Laszlo, 1994; West, 1994), the ability of an organization to learn and change is of considerable theoretical significance and practical importance (Edmondson and Moingeon, 1998). There is broad consensus that the hallmark of an effective organization lies in its capacity to learn (Adler and Cole, 1993). Moreover, it is generally accepted that any Organization that does not promote... [continues]
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