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Organizational Learning and Development

Organizational learning is defined as the process of detecting and correcting an organization’s errors through individuals acting as the agents of the organization. An organization’s learning system usually facilitates the learning activities of individuals which lead to organizational learning. Additionally, organizational learning is integrally connected to four constructs which are information sharing, information analysis, knowledge gaining and organizational memory (Malhotra, 1996).

Organizational learning can also be defined as the aptitude of an organization to scrutinize its strengths and weaknesses by acquiring insigh...

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...t and understanding. This understanding is largely gained through surveillance, investigation and carrying out tests. While organizational learning is an important factor in management, it can be considered as performance changes that occur as a result of an organization’s analysis. The value of organizational learning and development is quite clear given that many organizations are usually involved in the process of creating learning opportunities for individuals (“Organizational Learning”, 2010).

The leaders and managers of these organizations create learning opportunities for individuals in order for the organization to cope with the challenge of change. However, in addition to the created learning opportunities, an organization can deal with the challenges of change depending on the willingness of individuals and the organization to overcome these challenges. Types of Organizational Learning: Organizational learning is largely classified in three major evolutionary models which form the three types of organizational learning.

These three types are … Single-loop Learning: This model of organizational learning usually occurs in cases where errors are identified and corrected while the organization maintains the existing policies and goals (Argyris & Schon, 2010). While the existing clear practices and policies are maintained, single loop learning occurs without changing the essential nature of the organization’s actions. However, this model of learning is often considered as problematic for various aid agencies.

Furthermore, given that single-loop learning is based on a systematic learning approach, the model is generally unconventional and inapplicable to organizations whose learning is fundamental to the general mission. Double-loop Learning: In addition to identifying and correcting errors, double-loop learning also involves the examination and alteration of the existing policies, actions and rules of the organization. While addressing the fundamental features of an organization, this model of learning leads to the reflection on the suitability of an organization’s fundamental policies and practices.

Notably, double-loop learning is considered to be in express conflict with the closeness of the existing organizational processes (Ramalingam, 2010). Triple-loop Learning: Being the highest model of organizational learning, this type of learning involves the scrutiny of the whole foundation of an organization. As the examination is carried out in triple-loop learning, drastic changes in the organization’s policies, culture, structure and actions can be made. In fact, triple-loop learning can sometimes result in the implementation of major transformations in an organization’s external context.

While this model does not guarantee successful transformation of aid agencies, it occurs in these organizations because of the rate at which new policies are initiated and recruitment of new leaders. Core Disciplines of Organizational Learning: According to Smith (2001), organizational learning is the action and method with which an organization ultimately attains the model of a learning organization. He also defines a learning organization as institution where individuals repeatedly enlarge their ability to produce the desired results.

In addition to this, these organizations cultivate new and liberal patterns of thinking and allow the joint goal of individuals. While an organization should be good at the creation, appropriation and utilization of knowledge, there are core disciplines of organizational learning. These disciplines, which enables an organization to become a learning organization include: Systems Thinking: This discipline enables organizations to perceive the big picture while identifying models and ideas rather than individual procedures.

This discipline is fundamental to organizational learning because an organization not only views things as a whole but it also tunes them into components. In measuring the performance of the entire organization and its different components, a learning organization uses systems thinking to assess the firm. Personal Mastery: While individual learning does not necessarily guarantee organizational learning, an organization can only learn when individuals learn (“What is a Learning Organization? ” n. d. ). This discipline of organizational learning can be largely defined as the dedication of an individual to the learning process.

While they are of their weaknesses, ignorance and the need for development, individuals with personal mastery are usually constant learners. As compared to organizations whose workforce is slow to learn, organizations whose employees are quick to learn often have a competitive advantage. Mental Models: The ability of an individual’s assumptions and generalizations to influence his/her view of the world is defined as mental model. In addition to influencing the decisions and actions that individuals make, mental models also influence the assumptions held by an organization.

This discipline reveals and at times challenges these assumptions while helping individuals to avoid non-productive corporate games. While it promotes a mental flexibility and honesty, mental model focuses on a more disseminated and local team ownership within an organization. Shared Vision: Building a shared vision is an important discipline because its development motivates individuals to learn while promoting authentic commitment and dedication instead of mere compliance. Visions become clear while fostering enthusiasm and dedication through a reinforcing process of vision sharing.

While promoting a present commitment to the organization’s vision, building a shared vision also enables future commitment. Team Learning: In addition to building on personal mastery and shared vision, team learning enables the team to achieve the desired results. Through improved access to information and proficiency an organization’s workforce improves their problem solving capability as a result of team learning. Team learning mainly focuses on team disciplines, team alignment and team discussions while enabling a team to not only learn but also work together.

Individual and Organizational Learning: As mentioned earlier, individual learning does not necessarily guarantee organizational learning though it plays an important role in organization learning. An organization actually becomes a learning organization when the knowledge generated by individuals in the organization is reflected upon and evaluated (Bednar, 2000). Based on the combined knowledge of individuals within an organization, organization learning which changes the organization is considered as an ongoing process.

Furthermore, organizational learning is as a result of the joint efforts with which individuals generate new ideas by sharing information while relating with others. Therefore, individual learning advances organizational learning in the following ways: Individuals’ Behaviors: This is one of the ways in which individual learning promotes organizational learning given that organizations are usually affected by individuals’ behaviors. Notably, the impact of social structures on the performance of an organization is mediated by individual learning (Castaneda & Rios, 2007).

In addition to the organizational aspects that are not dependent on human behavior, interactive psychosocial processes enable organizational learning. While an individual’s behavior has a significant impact and effect on organizational development, these behaviors are usually determined by individual learning which in turn affects organizational learning. Given that organizational learning is largely considered as a social process, individual learning promotes organizational learning since individuals understand and create a societal environment.

These social processes are important in the acquisition, dissemination and utilization of information with the aim of creating rational products. Organizational learning incorporates social interaction because individual cognition and learning is not only influenced by relations with others but it’s also affected by the organizational policies, procedures and activities. Organizational actions are usually dependent on individual behaviors and actions which are centered on the individual’s beliefs.

These organizational actions ultimately create an environmental reaction which in turn affects individual beliefs. While a new cycle of organizational learning is created with changes in the environmental reaction, organizational actions are likely to remain the same if the environmental reaction is unchanging. A change in the individual beliefs as a result of environmental reaction precipitates organizational learning and actions. Individual Mental Models: An individual’s mental model is a person’s perspective of the world including clear and hidden understandings.

While these models influence how a person’s actions, they also have a significant impact on what the person sees. Individual mental models determine the relevance of stored information to a particular situation through the provision of a framework with which a person views and understands new material. In addition to shaping a person’s perspective of the world, mental models can also limit the person’s understanding to whatever is sensible within the mental model (Kim, n. d. ). These mental models provide memory which has a significant role in connecting individual to organizational learning.

While learning is about the acquisition of knowledge, memory is important in organizational learning because it is about retention of the acquired knowledge. Notably, the acquired knowledge in our memory affects our learning as much as learning has an effect on our memory. Since organizational learning relies on the improvement of people’s mental models, it is important for individuals to make their mental models clear for the purpose of developing an organization’s shared mental models.

This process of developing new mental models enables organizational not to be dependent on any specific individual or member of the organization. Individual Cognitive Processes: An individual’s cognitive processes are not only central to individual learning but it’s also a key determinant of organizational learning. A change in the person’s state of knowledge has a direct impact on the person’s behavior and eventually individual learning. An individual creates new representations of the environment depending on his/her beliefs, experience and anticipations.

This process not only changes the person’s behavior but it also changes his/her foundational cognitive structures. Therefore, an individual’s learning potential is modeled by value judgments, social skills and interests as the learning process becomes a function of individual cognitive abilities (Buchel & Probst, n. d. ). Individual Learning Cycle: This is the other ways in which individual learning advance organizational learning since it is the process through which individual beliefs change.

The new beliefs are then entered in the individual mental models and learning cycle. Individual learning cycle has a powerful influence on organizational learning since they also influence the shared mental models of the organization. While individual can at times learn without the organization, organizational learning is dependent on individual learning because this learning is not reliant on a specific individual. The cycle of individual learning influences the development and application of an organization’s norms and polarization.

As individual mental models determine an organization’s shared mental models, individual learning cycle contributes to organizational learning. Conclusion: While organizational learning is important in organizational development and performance, it is considered as a more intricate and active process. The process of organizational learning goes beyond the enlargement of individual learning. The intricacy of this process increases when dealing with various individuals as compared to a single individual.

However, organizational learning is dependent on individual learning since an organization can only learn through individuals. References: Leopard-learning. com (n. d. ), What is a Learning Organization? , Leopard-learning. com, viewed 17 August 2010, <http://www. leopard-learning. com/learningorganization. html> Mercer. com (2010), Organizational Learning and Development-Dealing with Challenges to Change, Mercer. com, viewed 17 August 2010, <http://www. mercer. com. au/summary. htm? idContent=1370275> Argyris, C. & Schon, D (2010), Organizational Learning, Value Based Management.

net, viewed 17 August 2010, <http://www. valuebasedmanagement. net/methods_organizational_learning. html> Bednar, P. M (2000), A Contextual Integration of Individual and Organizational Learning Perspectives as Part of IS Analysis, Special Series on Organizational Learning, Vol. 3 No. 3, viewed 17 August 2010, <http://inform. nu/Articles/Vol3/v3n3p145-156. pdf> Buchel, B & Probst G (n. d. ), From Organizational Learning to Knowledge Management, The College of Information Sciences and Technology, The Pennsylvania State University, viewed 17 August 2010,

<http://citeseerx. ist. psu. edu/viewdoc/download? doi=10. 1. 1. 132. 3507&rep=rep1&type=pdf> Castaneda, D. I & Rios, M. F (2007), From Individual Learning to Organizational Learning, The Electronic Journal of Knowledge Management, Vol. 5 Issue 4, pp. 363-372, viewed 17 August 2010, <http://www. ejkm. com/volume-5/v5-i4/Castaneda. pdf> Kim, D. H (n. d. ), The Link between Individual and Organizational Learning, Sloan Management Review, viewed 17 August 2010, <http://140. 78. 61. 8/born/mpwfst/03/0312_IV

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