The concept of Learning Organisations.

Explain the concept of Learning Organisations.

Advanced information technology and total quality have almost become the cost of entry into competition in the global economy. To become successful and gain a competitive advantage, organisations today and tomorrow must become learning organisations.

Many authors have tried to define and describe the learning organisation, as if the idea was homogeneous. However, no one seems to have succeeded with that task. Authors point out that confusion still exists about the concept. The terms ‘organisational learning’ and ‘learning organisation’ are used interchangeably. Many authors emphasise the difficulty, or even the impossibility of describing what a complete learning organisation looks like. They argue that learning organisations change continually or that each learning organisation must be different in order to fit the specific organisation. Furthermore many authors present some definitions of ‘the learning organisation’ and make a synthesis. However, most syntheses and definitions have more differences than similarities. For instance, Watkins and Marsick define ‘the learning organisation’ as one that learns continuously and transforms itself’, while, according to Senge, it is ‘an organisation that is continually expanding its capacity to create process can be more easily solved with explicit knowledge, whereas un- analysable problems require a non-routine search process that draws much more on tacit knowledge. Practitioners in four distinct types – ‘organisational learning’, learning at work ‘,’ learning climate and learning structure, use in the literature and the term learning organisation.

The organisation portrayed as a learning system is not new. In fact, at the turn of the century Frederick. W. Taylor’s learning on scientific management were said to be transferable to workers to make the organisation more efficient. However, the beginning of today’s use of the term “learning organisation” is usually attributed to the work of Chris Argyris and his colleagues, who made the distinction between “single-loop”, and “double-loop”, learning.

  • Single-loop learning involves improving the organisation’s capacity to achieve known objectives. It is associated with routine and behavioural learning. Under single-loop, the organisation is learning without significant change in its basic assumptions.
  • Double-loop learning revaluates the nature of the organisation’s objectives and the values and beliefs surrounding them. This type of learning involves changing the organisation’s culture. Importantly, double-loop consists of the organisation’s learning how to learn.

Saroj Meher

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