Organizational Learning and Learning Organizations: Theory and Empirical Findings


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Abstract

This article presents a survey of the concepts and empirical evidence of the effects of Organizational Learning (OL) and Learning Organizations (LO). It summarizes and compares theories, empirical studies, and practical implications from four main research perspectives: information processing, knowledge management, strategic management, and organizational culture. The information processing perspective regards learning as a reaction to deviations from expected outcomes. The perspective of knowledge management focuses on methods by which organizations spread explicit information systematically by using information technology tools. The organizational culture perspective addresses the question of how OL is influenced by specific national cultures, as well as the attributes that characterize an organizational learning culture. From a strategic point of view, learning reveals its value by enabling a firm to excel over its competitors. The discussion of these research agendas shows a lack of empirical foundation concerning the theories and concepts presented. Finally, because much of the literature seems too optimistic about the possibilities of learning within organizations, the authors stress the importance of integrating concepts like power, interests, and politics into the debate on OL and LO. The ideal of an open and free information exchange (which often tacitly is assumed in the OL literature) is criticized as politically naive.

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