Before we delve into the topic of organizational learning, we need first to understand what it is.
According to the Business Dictionary, organizational learning is defined as “a consistent procedure that improves its capacity to accept, understand, and react to internal and external changes. Organizational learning is more than all of the collective knowledge held by employees. It requires deliberate systematic integration and interpretation of new knowledge that prompts collective action and includes risk-taking as experimentation.” (Business Dictionary, n.d.).
Organizational learning is a system, according to Jamshid Gharajedaghi, “whose function of the learning dimension is the development of human assets. It is about reinvigorating the ability and desire of the members to satisfy their needs and desires, both individually and collectively. Ability without desire is impotent, just as desire without ability is sterile. Cultural development involves desires, while professional development involves abilities. These are essential for creating an achieving society.” (Gharajedaghi, 2011).
A learning organization was a concept developed and implemented by Peter Senge in 1990. According to the Business Dictionary, a learning organization is defined as an “Organization that acquires knowledge and innovates fast enough to survive and thrive in a rapidly changing environment. Learning organizations:
(1) create a culture that encourages and supports continuous employee learning, critical thinking, and risk-taking with new ideas
(2) allow mistakes and value employee contributions
(3) learn from experience and experiment
(4) disseminate the new knowledge throughout the organization for incorporation into day-to-day activities.” (Business Dictionary, n.d.).
With this information in mind, this means that while organizational learning and learning organization appears to be the same thing, they are not. There are slight differences between the two, and it could be easy to confuse them. A learning organization is a procedure to change by focusing on improving the skills and abilities of the workers. Organizational learning is having a method or system there and utilizing it throughout the organization by using knowledge learned through everyday experiences.
When discussing the two, Carol Gorelick states, “it is not either the learning organization or organizational learning. Senge’s five disciplines of learning are integral components in a learning organization, providing tools and methods that are applicable and useful in the process of organizational learning. If organizational learning is seen as a continuous learning cycle, then an organization can not arrive at a point in time where it declares itself ‘a learning organization.” (Gorlick, 2005). Gorlick’s findings are that the two should be combined in a co-existing manner and implemented together.
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