Theories of Organizational Learning
The task of analyzing organizational learning is very complex. Several researches have explained organizational learning using different theories. The field of organizational learning is large and researches often fall prey to disappointments becoming unaware of other important but categorically different researches from their own. Shipton (2006) classified the various theories of organizational learning. This essay analyses the evaluations of theories offered in the journal and offers a way of advancing the theories. It will also note any challenges hindering theory advancement.
The article divides the theories of organizational learning into two continuums. One continuum covers theories using normative approaches and the other continuum covers theories using explanatory approaches. The article identifies two major categories of theories. The first category describes organizational learning in the focus of the whole organization. The second category describes OL as individual learning done in the organizational context. Some studies are not clearly distinct and their description borders on the two categories. The article has used the degree of emphasis to classify such studies (Shipton 2006).
The article first analyses the theory describing OL as individuals learning in the context of the organization and falling into the first continuum of normative approaches. It notes that literature in this category mainly highlights learning as inspirational. It highlights dialogue’s benefit of improving communication among individuals and groups. The environment plays a key role in facilitating learning and organizations are encouraged to be decentralized and flat to promote dialogue. Personal communications are emotional and the organization has to have mechanisms to solve concerns and anxieties. Emotional issues make overall learning in the organization complicated. The article notes that many researches have not shown the complexity however when deeply analyzed, the researches place the individual at the center of the initiatives incorporated to stimulate learning. The evaluation of this theory advocates for a focus on how individual leaning mechanisms assist organizational learning. Secondly, it identifies a research gap in use of empirical evidence to justify learning activity effects on the organization (Shipton 2006).
The article also evaluates the same theory as above, but which falls on the second continuum of explanatory perspective mainly due to their descriptive nature. In this category, the article points out two distinct views. In the first view, research is concerned with knowing how individual learning takes place under either stressing or enabling environments. Research also focuses on cognitive ability of the individual. The second view emphasizes on the process of knowledge construction. The article further notes that research works falling into this category evaluate knowledge using a ‘situated learning’ approach. According to the article’s findings, tacit knowledge sharing is not clear. Furthermore, it is difficult to picture how to encourage best practices when implementation happens subconsciously in daily work (Shipton 2006).
In the second theory category described as organizational focus, the article reviews research works in the first continuum of prescriptive perspective. The article places research works focusing on the organization in this category. Individuals are not the focus of the research studies reviewed unless they form the first state in which the organization learns. The article notes that works reviewed were clear on the outcomes of organizational learning. Based on the notion that organizational learning sanctions become measurable when they work, studies in this category have investigated strategic renewal and learning curve. The former refers to dynamic movement of knowledge in the institution while the later looks at the time it takes to transfer knowledge effectively in the institution (Argote 2005). Although in this category learning curve offers a direct way of measuring learning, the review article criticizes the various researches for failing to elaborate what lies between individual level learning and organizational level learning. Furthermore, the article finds out that the researches ignore tacit knowledge’s influence on learning (Shipton 2006).
Finally, the review article evaluates researches in the organizational focus category that fall into the second continuum of explanatory perspective. Researches falling in this continuum focus on the changes associated with organizational learning. Additionally, they look at possibilities of inadequate results despite any efforts made to enhance organizational learning. Lastly, they look into the role of tacit knowledge in molding the capacity of the organization (Bennet & Bennet 2008). In this category, researches fall under behaviorist or cognitive perspective. The former views procedures and sequences as learning mines. The later associate learning with potential that later assists in sharing understanding of awareness and actions. The common view among the various researches in this category is codification of knowledge in the organization. However, reviewed research has not shown whether codification as a storage and retrieval mechanism for knowledge stimulates or hinders progress (Shipton 2006).
The review article concludes that the typology used in the review is usable when comparing theories whose consideration does not fall in one context. In order to advance the theories discussed in the article, future research must be more focused and in depth employing empirical methods. However, the author notes that such an in depth look might return the researcher to the disillusionment of having no knowledge of other non-related but significant theories (Shipton 2006).
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