The Relationship Between Organizational Learning and the Learning Organization

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The Relationship between Organizational Learning and the Learning Organization

Introduction

During these years, there has been an increased trend toward emphasizing on the importance of learning in organizational management, due to the managers were told that the economy has turned into a knowledge economy (Drucker, 1993 cited in Berends et. al, 2003), and that knowledge and learning “are of prime importance for creating and sustaining competitive advantage”(Nonaka, 1994 cited in Berends et. al, 2003). This great change has encouraged organization to not only adapt and acquire knowledge but also to learn how to apply what they learned into practice. Therefore, to develop organizational learning and to be learning organizations become extremely important.

However, there is a debate on the relationship between organizational learning and the learning organization, that whether they are different or can equal to each other. Easterby-Smith and Araujo (1999) indicated that, although theorists of learning organizations have drawn lessons from organizational learning, there has been differences exist. For example, the literature on “organizational learning has concentrated on the detached collection and analysis of the processes involved in individual learning inside organizations; Whereas the learning organization literature has an action orientation toward using specific evaluative methodological tools to promote and evaluate the quality of learning processes inside organizations” (Easterby-Smith & Araujo, 1999; Tsang, 1997).

Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to explore the relationship between organizational learning practices and the learning organization. The paper is organized as follows. First, it will explain what organizational learning is and what does organization does learned looks like. Then it will explore the characteristics of learning organization, and how to be a learning organization. At last, it will focus on discussing the relationship between organizational learning and the learning organization. The paper will conclude that an organization that learns does not automatically mean that it is a learning organization.

Organizational Learning

There are a great many of theorists have defined “organizational learning”. A quite common view from most traditional researchers on organizational learning or "old" organizational learning believed that, organizational learning means the individuals learn as agents for the organization (Huber, 1991 cited in Ortenblad, 2001). However, in order to show the organizational learning is valid, the knowledge learned by individuals must be stored in the memory of the organization, such as the shared mental models, which include routines, rules, procedures, documents and culture (Ortenblad, 2001).

In the 1990s a social approach to learning has appeared in the organizational learning literature (Ortenblad, 2001). There are two main differences between new organizational learning and old organizational learning. First, the former perspective restrict organizational learning to learning by key individuals or learning by the “dominant coalition” (Dodgson, 1993 cited in Berends, et. al., 2003). But many other authors argue that it is more than a simple aggregation of individual learning. Instead, it is more correct to say that organizational learning is collective learns that everyone as social beings needs to participate in it. There is a common idea about organizational learning is that, it involves the creation of knowledge by individual learning and the subsequent transfer of gained knowledge to others (Kim, 1993 cited in Berends, et. al., 2003). Second, the old organizational learning believed knowledge can be stored, while in the new perspective of organizational learning, it is context dependent (Lave and Wenger, 1991 cited in Ortenblad, 2001). Accordingly, it is indicated that knowledge cannot be stored without changes. The knowledge or the...
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