Over the years, there have been several definitions of organizational learning. One such definition is that it is the process of being able to detect and correct errors, with people in the organization acting as the agents who learn through various activities. Another definition states that there are four aspects associated with organizational learning, and these are: knowledge acquisition, distribution of information, interpretation of information, and the use of organizational memory. Lastly, organizational learning has also been defined as similar to that of having one stimulus and getting several effects, a pattern of many “means and ends” relationships. But fundamentally, organizational learning takes place when a group of people gives only one response to a stimulus.
The Importance of Organizational Learning
Every organization must be able to accomplish organizational learning. This is seen as essential, and is in fact considered a competence that every organization should develop if they want a chance at success in their field. Every business today needs to constantly struggle to keep up with the changes and be able to deal with the challenges posed by the complexities of the global community. In response to this, organizations can explore the various ways on which to manage each challenge and difficulty so that in the end, they will be able to fulfill their purpose. Such possibilities can only be cemented through organizational learning.
Learning is essential to promote performance. Without learning, everyone in the organization is stuck in yesterday’s knowledge and skills, and will have difficulty adapting to change. Without organizational learning, it is very difficult to gain a competitive advantage.
Organizational Learning Competencies
Organizational learning has five core competencies, and these are: systems thinking, shared vision, personal mastery, team learning, and mental models.
- Systems thinking is having the ability to see the many relationships in a system. This is important because it can measure organizational performance in its entirety, as well as that of its smaller components.
- Shared vision is having the same ideas and the same goals in the organization. This helps to motivate people to learn more, and when every individual from all levels of the organization is highly motivated to learn, nothing can stop them from succeeding.
- Personal mastery is all about being able to identify one’s own purpose and develop ways to achieve it. When an individual knows his purpose, he becomes committed. When everyone in the organization is committed, they hold a bigger advantage over other organizations.
- Team learning is all about group dynamics and synergy. It requires members in the organization to engage each other through various activities such as dialogues and discussions that will promote open communication and understanding among the group.
- Mental models refer to group perception of how the world operates, which in turn, will shape the way this group makes decisions, reacts to given situations, and interprets behavior.
Managers play a crucial role in organizational learning because they act as the stewards who can create shared vision among their people as well as challenge the current mental models.
Barriers to Organizational Learning
One of the biggest causes of not being able to succeed in organizational learning is resistance at the individual learning level. The change starts on this level, which means that each member of the organization has to be able to understand and accept the concept of learning at the organizational level, otherwise learning will not take place at all.
Sometimes, because of the culture that an individual was introduced into, it makes it difficult for him to adjust to the whole idea of change. With closed mindsets, they will be unable to accept mental models and will refuse to take part in creating shared visions. For them, it is a threat and will always act negatively towards it unless these issues are addressed properly.
The key element here is communication. By making everyone understand the essence of organizational learning and how it will work to their benefit, a buy-in can be achieved. And once this happens, their commitment can be gained. Managers should take time to conduct one-on-one meetings with their people, as well as hold open forums to help clarify the idea of organizational learning to everybody concerned.