Explain what organisational learning is and why it matters to managers illustrating your answer with examples from different applied topics such as Innovation, Strategy, Change and Knowledge Management.
Organisational Learning and Its Importance for Innovation, Strategy, Change And Knowledge Management
Learning is an essential component in virtually every organisation because it allows its members to acquire essential insights to enhance sustainability. Through organisational learning, therefore, an entity can create, retain, and transfer knowledge to foster its improvement over a period of time. Members of an organisation, especially junior or inexperienced ones also gain valuable experience through learning. In most cases, organisational learning encompasses three processes, including conception, action, and reflection.
The conception phase incorporates formulating ideologies that would oversee the entire process; in this stage, an organisation chooses relevant aspects to its learning. On the other hand, the action phase relates to the actual process of imparting knowledge and skills to members of an organisation to enhance overall efficiency. Meanwhile, the reflection phase centres on the review of the pros and cons of the overall learning process; this stage helps to improve the whole process as it provides a clear picture, which gives recommendations on parameters that need to reinforced to enhance organisational effectiveness (Boer et al. 2017, 41).
The paper will explain the concept of organisational learning based on insights from varied scholarly materials. It will also highlight why organisational learning matters to managers with illustrations from the application of themes such as knowledge management, innovation, strategy, and change. Organisational learning is crucial to an institution because it imparts critical knowledge and experience that improve efficiency.
The Meaning of Organisational Learning
According to Popova-Nowak and Cseh (2015, 299), the broad definition of organisational learning entails the interaction of persons and groups in a setting toward the attainment of organisation objectives. In this context, groups can encompass members of the same organisation or persons of different organisations interacting collectively to exchange crucial information for the sake of the progress of their parent entities. As a result of organisational learning, companies can easily incorporate critical aspects, including radical innovation and creativity.
Also of concern is that organisational learning is a continuous process that improves the collective ability of an entity to accept, conceptualise, and gives responses towards both internal and external changes. In this regard, the organisational learning concept surpasses a mere process of the summing up the information at the disposal of employees. Other processes required to oversee the success of organisational learning are inclusive of methodical integration and the cooperative integration of the latest knowledge to elicit collective action. The full implementation of organisational learning, hence, involves taking risks, which is an aspect of experimentation.
Organisational learning provides a knowledge-based dimension of a firm. The process provides information that helps an organisation to collect all information that will enable it to have a competitive advantage over others. In this respect, learning is essential to stabilise the success of an organisation. As a strategic entity, organisational learning prompts the inception of knowledge management, which helps to enhance the primary goals of the organisation (Saadat and Saadat 2016, 219).
Organisational learning is, thus, an obligatory element to any setting that wishes to prosper or experience long-term sustainability. To enforce effective organisation learning with knowledge management in place, there is a need for settings to create a suitable environment to support knowledge acquisition. Managers also need to possess the awareness concerning the reason and the rationale behind the learning of a concept. Organisational learning also requires compliance with relevance; this premise implies that all the contents of organisational learning should be useful to the organisation in which it is practised.
When implemented effectively, organisational learning guarantees the improvement of an organisation’s current and future functionalities. Effective organisational learning helps a setting to respond well to changes that occur inside and outside. Apart from enhancing knowledge transmission, organisational learning reveals how individuals and groups learn and their ability to use the acquired knowledge to improve the organisation’s efficiency. This aspect means that organisational learning helps to make core decisions relating to aspects such as motivation and employee retention, in the event of structural reforms or changes in an organisation.
Odor (2018, 1) believes that organisational learning is a vital source of the competitive edge given that it improves an organisation in a way that enhances its responsiveness to change. Precisely, it ensures that an organisation is flexible enough to adjust to any changes in its area of operations. The process equips an organisation with knowledge assets necessary for its survival. Organisational learning prompts a change in a setting based on past or previous experience; adverse outcomes in the past are likely to provide more encouragement for an organisation to establish more prudent and efficient strategies to improve future outcomes.
One of the common approaches to organisational learning is cognitive-behavioural; this school of thought incorporates not only belief systems but also behaviour through action. Concisely, organisational learning includes all methodologies, mechanics, and processes that a setting utilises to oversee the transmission of knowledge and attitudes. These enable organisations to act competently as they can identify errors and correct them in good time. Some factors that influence organisational learning include corporate strategy, the allocation of resource, and the acknowledgement of employee motivation towards learning.
Corporate strategy relates to the ability of an organisation to learn from its past mistakes in compliance with its structure. On the other hand, the allocation of resource focuses on an entity’s capability to explore and exploit information to maximise gains or profitability. Meanwhile, the acknowledgement of employee motivation for learning gives signals of the potential success of organisational learning; the process is only effective in settings where employees are heavily incentivised or motivated towards acquiring new information.
At the individual level, employees must have accumulated salient ideas and information regarding their environment as this equips them with sufficient some knowledge to share with others. At the group level, organisation learning can only succeed when persons are willing to share as well as interact with other persons concerning what they have learnt at the individual stage; through sharing information, individuals undertake collective interpretation, which leads to the formation of group identity or assumptions.
Organisational learning also requires a certain level of preparedness in a setting. Most importantly, an organisation must constitute a system that allows information to run smoothly at all stages. An organisation should also demonstrate the potential to support learning at four levels, including individual, group, intergroup, and organisational (Odor 2018, 4). Organisational learning is, therefore, a multidimensional framework that enhances the acquisitions and transmission of knowledge aimed to enhance the overall effectiveness of a given entity.
Why Organisational Learning Matters to Managers
Managers are obliged to master the concept of organisational learning because of their central roles in virtually all organisations. The effectiveness of organisational learning determines the success of managers considering that it has a significant influence on employee motivation and productivity in the workplace. Organisational learning, thus, affects management in almost all levels, including innovative, strategic, change, and knowledge.
Through organisational learning, managers acquire essential strategic/organising skills that make their organisational works easier. This is because organisational learning is characterised by changes in various dimensions of operations. Managers are likely to learn how to be dynamic in response to the ever-changing needs of the business environment. It is worth to note that no organisation has ever succeeded through resisting change (Whittington et al. 2006, 617). Managers need regular workshops to improve their practical craft, which ultimately helps them to establish salient conditions to create effective organisational learning structures in their workplaces.
Managers also acquire innovative capabilities through organisational learning. The process allows them to know their environment, select needs required to oversee learning and development, transmit the knowledge acquired into practice, as well as fulfil learning and development requirements. In the process of identifying these elements with efficiency, managers are obliged to undertake different trials and errors that result in fresh ideas or innovations that enhance their effectiveness in the workplace.
Without innovativeness from the manager, it is nearly impossible to have a learning organisation since the creation of such a setting requires exceptional management. Some features of a learning organisation that the managers should oversee include a need for the smooth running of information at all levels of the organisation, continuous training and delegation of staff, and reflective thinking (Gilaninia, Rankouh, and Gildeh 2017, 47). In a way, managers have a duty to make their respective workplaces favourable in readiness for organisational learning.
A strong organisational learning framework influences positive managerial decisions. In this respect, a setting is likely to reduced employee turnover rates considering that workers will probably be more motivated because of job satisfaction. Upon learning to adjust after effective organisational learning, most managers will devise efficient management practices that would encourage loyalty and commitment among members of the workforce. A positive-minded human resource tends to be productive because they love what they do.
The end result of this situation is overall efficiency, characterised by enhanced productivity. Organisational learning also enhances creativity in managers since it creates a culture of inquiry or Socratic probing; as a result, they are likely to explore other strategies of undertaking varied duties. In a way, probing could lead to an efficient method of devising strategies to enhance knowledge sharing and discourage knowledge hoarding for the sake of the organisation.
Organisational learning also enables managers to develop leaders within the organisation, which makes the process of planning succession easier. Alongside employees, managers are exposed to an environment that enforces a mindset of continuous improvement and collective accountability, through organisational learning (Boer et al. 2017, 123). Notably, collective accountability emanates from the culture of shared project ownership inculcated by the concept (Organisational learning).
Regarding knowledge management, organisational learning enables administrators to acquire much information on business operations. In the current business environment in which knowledge is perceived as a vital resource, managers with the highest skills on organisational learning have a deeper comprehension of both internal and external business environments.
In this respect, they can steer their companies towards improved innovation, employee training, flexibility, and business performance. Succinctly, the development of a sound knowledge management system requires effective organisational learning by managers. Examples of companies that have thrived as a result of sound knowledge management are inclusive of Ford, IBM, Coca Cola, IBM, General Electrics, and Microsoft Windows (Jelenic 2011, 35). The essence of knowledge management makes it an obligation for managers to commit to organisational learning.
The effectiveness of organisational learning can produce a return on investment (ROI). This aspect (ROI) relates to the increased productivity in the organisation. Managers with good knowledge on organisational learning are also well-positioned to advise Boards of Directors regarding policies that inculcate a learning culture.
If learning becomes part of an organisation’s DNA, the setting will improve in its identification of problems as a way to find quick solutions. Such an organisation will also boast of enhanced high levels of innovation that will enable it to outdo its competitors (Sujan and Furniss 2015, 9). By organisational, therefore, an organisation is assured of providing quality services that give a competitive edge.
Senior managers can also learn to cope with issues associated with middle managers through organisational learning. Based on Balogun (2003, 69), middle managers have also been perceived as resistant to change and obstructive. Such claims hinder any potential transformation of the middle manager to useful members in the workplace. The situation is further reinforced by the decision of some organisations to downsize and re-engineer operations to eliminate middle managers. Because of their positions, the press has always painted them negatively as persons who could oppose change given that any structural change in an organisation is likely to eliminate their position.
Despite these actions, Balogun suggests that middle managers are still essential in an organisation. In initiating changes in an organisation, middle managers can act as strategic assets. They could utilise their positions to collect and analyse information on threats and opportunities; these details would help senior managers to make effective structural changes to enhance organisational effectiveness (Chiva et al. 2018, 90).
Middle managers can also motivate the conception of projects that fall within departments as a way to enhance adaptability in an organisation. In addition, they can utilise resources at their disposal to spearhead creative ideas and business-related opportunities to senior managers (Balogun 2003, 71). These aspects prove that organisational learning encourages a shift in thinking considering that senior managers are likely to perceive middle managers as good foot soldiers rather than destroyers.
According to Vickers and Fox (2010, 890), managers can also get to learn about the latest developments in human resource management (HRM) through organisational learning. One essential development that senior managers could be educated about is the transformation in the duties of middle managers.
Organisational learning has provided a new perspective concerning middle managers; they have been transformed from enemies of progress in an organisation to critical persons in the implementation of change (Edmonstone 2018, 436). With organisational learning in place, HRM is bound to improve given that the concept raises more questions that will bring new ideologies to enhance business management.
It is essential to note that the role of managers in organisational learning has existed for more than two decades. To cope with the dynamism in the business environment, the concept of learning organisations was established. Upon its inception, managers were entrusted with the function of its implementation to facilitate quality provision. The quality of implementation determines the ability of an organisation to succeed as it influences competitive advantage. Today, every ambitious and determined manager has to be sensitive towards organisational learning to enhance their competence in service delivery (Smith 2016, 57).
The two key aspects of organisational learning that managers ought to learn to include adaptive learning and generative learning. While adaptive learning requires a manager to learn every aspect of organisation intimately, the generative dimension encourages the perception of the world in a unique yet flexible way to oversee effective understanding of the business environment; in this respect, generative learning allows a business to develop an edge that allows it compete favourably with its rivals.
The obligation for managers to consider both adaptive learning and generative learning relates to the integrating principle or creative tension. This framework outlines that effective organisational leadership requires one to communicate their vision effectively and embrace the organisation’s current reality (Senge 1990, 468).
Concisely, creative tension prompts managers to use their current fears or uncertainty to create a better future for their organisations. For instance, present operational challenges in the workplace could motivate a massive strategy to establish advanced technology that will make work easier, thus increasing efficiency (Gasparski 2017, 72). The integrating principle is an indication of how managers can utilise organisational learning to facilitate knowledge management.
The paper has discussed the concept of organisational learning in totality and how it matters to managers. Organisational learning has been outlined as a system of knowledge acquisition in which members of an organisation transmit and acquire insights through interaction. This process could involve a discourse between different organisations. Meanwhile, managers need education on organisational learning to make informed decisions regarding strategy, knowledge management, innovation, and change. One evident reason why organisational learning is crucial to senior managers relates to the perception of middle managers; senior managers with effective knowledge in organisational learning view middle managers as strategic experts in the implementation of change as opposed to revolts of change.
- Balogun, J., 2003. From blaming the middle to harnessing its potential: Creating change intermediaries. British journal of management, 14(1), pp.69-83.
- Boer, H., Berger, A., Chapman, R. and Gertsen, F., 2017. CI Changes from Suggestion Box to Organisational Learning: Continuous Improvement in Europe and Australia: Continuous Improvement in Europe and Australia. Routledge.
- Chiva, R., Lapiedra, R., Alegre, J. and Miralles, S., 2018. Organisational Learning and Knowledge Management: A Prospective Analysis Based on the Levels of Consciousness. In The Palgrave Handbook of Knowledge Management (pp. 85-103). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
- Edmonstone, J.D., 2018. Organisational learning. Leadership in Health Services, 31(4), pp.434-440.
- Gasparski, W.W., 2017. Action Learning: Praxiology. Routledge.
- Gilaninia, S., Rankouh, M.A.A. and Gildeh, M.A.P., 2013. Overview on the Importance of Organizational Learning and Learning Organization. Journal of Research and Development, 187(941), pp.1-6.
- Jelenic, D., 2011, June. The importance of knowledge management in Organizations–with emphasis on the balanced scorecard learning and growth Perspective. In Management, Knowledge and Learning, International Conference.
- Odor, H.O., 2018. A Literature Review on Organizational Learning and Learning Organizations. Int J Econ Manag Sci, 7(494), p.2.
- Popova-Nowak, I.V. and Cseh, M., 2015. The meaning of organizational learning: a meta-paradigm perspective. Human Resource Development Review, 14(3), pp.299-331.
- Saadat, V. and Saadat, Z., 2016. Organizational learning as a key role of organizational success. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 230, pp.219-225.
- Senge, P.M., 2004. The leader’s new work: Building learning organizations. How Organizations Learn: Managing the search for knowledge, pp.462-486.
- Smith, R., 2016. Organisational Learning: An integrated HR and knowledge management perspective. Routledge.
- Sujan, M. and Furniss, D., 2015. Organisational reporting and learning systems: Innovating inside and outside of the box. Clinical Risk, 21(1), pp.7-12.
- Vickers, D. and Fox, S., 2010. Towards practice-based studies of HRM: an actor-network and communities of practice informed approach. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 21(6), pp.899-914.
- Whittington, R., Molloy, E., Mayer, M. and Smith, A., 2006. Practices of strategising/organising: broadening strategy work and skills. Long Range Planning, 39(6), pp.615-629.