Table of Contents
Why do organizations learn?
In today’s highly competitive business environment, survival of organizations is hinged on how well they accept changes as well as improve practices and competitiveness. Knowledge acts as a critical resource for organizations. Organization learning is defined widely by different scholars. According to (Leithwood et al., 2001), organizational learning refers to the activities through which the organizational members construct new knowledge, or reconstruct the existing knowledge in order to improve the functioning of individual organizational members and as such the organization as a whole. As can be drawn from that definition, it is not the organization that learn, rather, it is the people who learn.
There are however some scholars that are of the opinion that in a learning organization, people build structures and create structures that prevail beyond the live of the individuals who created them. Generally, the aforesaid arguments gives fourth two approaches to organizational learning namely, one that looks at the firm as a whole and learning from a cognitive perspective and the second which looks at learning as community based where the firm’s practitioners create knowledge in their own networks called communities of practice. This paper tries to explore the main reasons why organizations learn.
As aforementioned, the current business environment is highly competitive. In order to exist in such a turbulent environment, it is important that individual and organizational learning occurs at a continuous and rapid pace. Organizations are faced with situations which demand them to be adaptable and at the same time proactive. Adaptability and proactive capacity are decisively connected to the capability of an organization to learn. Organizational learning makes it possible for organizations to respond to various business situations and in so doing enhance competitive advantage through generating new knowledge (Tetrick & Camburn, 2004).
In addition, organizations learn to maintain levels of innovation and remain competitive. By acquiring and using new knowledge and skills, the organization is able to develop novel and more effective strategies for competing within the business environment. A company must learn from its mistakes and cultivate multiple pathways for recognizing and leveraging the best ideas effectively (Tetrick & Camburn, 2004). Organizations also learn to enhance efficiency. Through learning, organizations enhance employee morale which leads to improvement in performance and efficiency of operations.
There is also the aspect of the product or service that an organization offers. The concept of continuous improvement refers to an ongoing improvement of products, services or processes through incremental and breakthrough improvements. It is through learning that organizations can be in a position to implement this concept. Learning makes it possible to improve the quality of outputs at all levels of an organization (Corso, 2002). Besides, organizations also learn to improve their corporate image by becoming more people oriented. Studying the target segments and as well as gathering feedback from customers can help organizations to improve their product. By putting the interests of the target population into consideration, the corporate image is improved (Wood, 2013).
Learning also promotes individual growth which is reciprocated in their commitment and performance. Giving employees the opportunity to learn through training makes them believe that the organization is supportive of them. There is also the aspect of organizational learning where learning is valued and mistakes are tolerated. This enables individuals to experience an increased sense of control over their work environment, thus decreasing job stress and increasing their well-being (Tetrick & Camburn, 2004). Learning helps align an individual’s goals to the organization’s thus developing morale and motivation. Shared vision focuses employee actions towards common goals.
Organizations also learn with an intention to aid staff retention and lower costs. In a work environment flooded with Millennials who have little loyalty, retention has become increasingly vital. Learning helps retention of the best employees by increasing employee satisfaction levels. Furthermore, learning also leads to the development of leaders at all levels which then helps with succession planning (MacBeath, 2010). There is also the aspect of an organizational learning at a faster rate than change. As aforementioned, changes are inevitable and occur at a very rapid rate. Organizations that keep up or stay ahead of such changes through learning can gain competitive advantage over rivals. A learning culture helps identify problems with the product or service and resolve quickly, out-innovate competitors as well as rapid corporate growth (Wood, 2013).
Organizational learning is considered as one of the most important issues in the modern managerial literature. There are many reasons why organizations learn. The first one is that they help organizations to survive the turbulent business environment by making them proactive and adaptable. Organizations also learn to enhance innovation and remain competitive. Furthermore, learning makes employees more efficient in their operations. Learning also promoted individual growth and helps align the individual’s goals to that of the organization. There is also the aspect of increased staff retention and lower costs as well as succession planning. Lastly, learning also helps organizations to keep up and/or stay ahead of changes in the business environment hence gaining competitive advantage over rivals.
Corso, M. (2002). From product development to Continuous Product Innovation: mapping the routes of corporate knowledge. International Journal of Technology Management , 23 (4).
MacBeath, J. (2010). Leadership for Learning. International Encyclopedia of Education (Third Edition) , 817-823.
Tetrick, L. E., & Camburn, M. K. (2004). Organizational Structure. Encyclopedia of Applied PSychology , 747-753.
Wood, J. (2013, March 11). 10 reasons why a ‘learning culture’ is crucial to your organisation. Retrieved July 18, 2018, from http://www.motivated-and-competent.com/latest-updates/10-reasons-why-a-learning-culture-is-crucial-to-your-organisation/