Organizational Learning Case Study

Length: 2 pages Sources: 1+ Subject: Business - Management Type: Case Study Paper: #15918312 Related Topics: Definition, Scientific Management, Organizational Structure, Organizational Culture
Excerpt from Case Study :

OL vs. LO

Herbert Simon (1969) defined organizational learning as "the growing insights and successful restructurings of organizational problems by individuals reflected in the structural elements and outcomes of the organization itself." This definition tells us a couple of important things about organizational learning. First, organizations as holistic entities cannot learn. Individuals within the organization, and working on behalf of the organization, do the learning, and they then pass their newfound knowledge onto the organization. Both the feedback loops by which they learn and the ways in which they pass their learning on flow through the organization in terms of the organization's structures, its culture, its strategies and its knowledge base. The latter can occur to a much stronger degree today than when this idea was first developed, because of our increased ability to gather, store and transmit information throughout the organization. This highlights the role of information systems in organizational learning, but such appreciation should not come at the expense of understanding the role that individuals within the organization play -- they remain critical.

Fiol & Lyles (1985) challenge this original definition, on the basis that they do not believe adaptation and learning to be the same thing. Their short-form explanation, however, contains a fallacy of...


The details of their article provide a clearer understanding of their definition of organizational learning. They point right, rightly, that change is not itself evidence of learning. This is application of the scientific method -- the existence of an outcome does not imply a specific input. However, that argument itself is looking at the definition of organizational learning the wrong way, as a matter of framing. Properly framed, organizational learning needs to be just that -- not outcomes. Outcomes are not relevant. They are objectives of learning, but the degree of success of the outcomes is affected by a lot of factors and organizational learning is just one such factor.

This makes it more difficult to understand organizational learning, and certainly more difficult to prove it empirically. But organizational learning is not something that you document; it is something that you practice. Organizational learning is that process of receiving feedback from many sources -- there are myriad methodologies by which feedback is acquired and understood -- and then processing that feedback. A reaction that is based…

Sources Used in Documents:


Simon, H. (1969) Sciences of the Artificial. MIT Press: Cambridge, MA.

Fiol, C. & Lyles, M. (1985). Organizational learning. The Academy of Management Review. Vol. 10 (4) 803-813.

Senge, P. (2003). Taking personal change seriously: The impact of organizational learning on management practice. Academy of Management Executive. Vol. 17 (2) 47-50.

Cite this Document:

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