organizational learning

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Primary source: James F. Courtney, David T. Croasdell, and David B. Paradice,Inquiring Organizations, Australian Journal of Information Systems Sept 14, 1998

Learning is purposeful, facilitating behavior change that leads to improved performance.

Properties associated with learning --

  • Learning styles -- Learning styles address the various aspects of learning. Adaptive learning refers to adjusting behavior and performance to a given situation. Generative learning attempts to create new capabilities, while its cousin double loop learning attempts to resolve incompatible norms by finding a higher order objective and solution to meet the objective for the previously incompatible norms. Both generative and double loop learning are sometimes equated as being the same. They both are required to develop new capabilities and to make transformational changes. Behavioral development seeks new response and actions. Cognitive development seeks deeper understanding. Single loop learning is adaptive within the constraints of the existing mental model. While these styles of learning point out different aspects of learning, they are not mutually exclusive.
  • Learning mechanisms -- Learning mechanisms include -
    • simple error detection and correction;
    • consensus building through the reduction of multiple conflicting interpretations about the organizational situation, with agreement establishing new direction, agreement, and organizational knowledge;
    • scanning the internal and external environments for new knowledge, since knowledge varies with time, a form of generative learning;
    • recursively create new knowledge from existing knowledge;
    • comparing new incoming knowledge to the organizational code, organizational memory, in order to consider means to create and incorporate new knowledge. This process establishes new mental models, new worldviews, thus is generative learning.
    • use of the dialectic to resolve opposing viewpoints, models, into a new worldview, which resolves the opposing models into higher order win/win solution. This is definitely generative learning which can change the strategic direction of an organization;
    • trial and error;
    • agreement and partition.
  • Learning level --
    Low level learning is a result of repetition and routines. Low-level learning is restricted to simple error detection and correction. Low-level learning is associated with single loop learning which maintains its set of rules, or mental model, throughout the learning process.
    High-level learning is more consistent with double loop learning, with the objective of adjusting the mental model to better fit the realities of the situation. High level learning develops an understanding of causation.
    Multi-level learning occurs when frequently used procedures and specific rules are continually improved to develop competency and understanding. This is the type of learning which produces the increasing returns to knowledge and experience associated with exploitation. This type of learning establishes a type ofpath dependency for an organization which can make is susceptible a competency trap, where the increasing returns on its current competency lead it to ignore superior methods and technologies.
  • Learning framework -- The learning framework is essentially the context for learning, the level being addressed within the organization -- the process level dealing with continuous incremental improvement, the architectural level which addresses how the elements of the organization fit together, and the strategic level, which addresses the nature, purpose, and function of the business.
  • Learning source -- The learning source refers to the basic types of knowledge contributing to the learning - syntactic knowledge, pragmatic knowledge, or semantic knowledge (see knowledge
  • Developmental orientation -- The developmental orientation refers to the individual being developed and their level of knowledge, or relevant intelligence. An apprentice develops know-how and applies basic concepts. With the addition of analysis the apprentice can develop into a specialist capable of doing independent work. The specialist who develops understanding and integrates knowledge becomes a generalist. The generalist then can move towards the renowned, where learning becomes synthesis and the development of new knowledge, a wise systems thinker.

Inquiry process or systems of inquiry --
Inquiry is a process, thus it is a system. The models of inquiry, being systems, have inputs, processes, and outputs. The output of an inquiring system is ""true"" knowledge, or at least knowledge that is believed not to be false. One of the most distinctive features of inquiring systems design is the inclusion of elaborate mechanisms for ""guaranteeing"" that only ""valid"" knowledge is produced. The ""guarantor"" of effective inquiry is the method of inquiry. The method of inquiry is developed to ensure outputs consistent with the underlying philosophy, so that knowledge generated may be considered ""valid"".

Singerian inquiry --
There are various philosophical bases for inquiry. E. A. Singer (1959) defined an inquiring organization as one whose purpose is the creation of knowledge for choosing the right means for one's ends. In Singer's view, knowledge must be connected to measurable improvements. Measures of performance judged by both organizational and societal standards. An organization must know the kind of value it intends to provide.

Singer's inquiring system --

  • Input - units and standards; a system of measures specifies the steps to be followed in resolving disagreements among members; the measure of performance is the degree to which differences among group members can be resolved by the measuring system
  • Given -- system of measurement
  • Process -- strategy of agreement, with the encouragement of disagreement in order to sweep-in new knowledge to improve world views; sweeping-in new variables and laws to provide guidance and overcome inconsistencies when explanatory models fail to explain a phenomenon; the system of measures is chosen to build knowledge and create insight
  • Output -- new standard; exoteric (common) knowledge; simplistic optimism drives the community towards continuous improvement of the measures
  • Guarantor -- replicability; Hegelian over-observer (objective observer)

Singer's inquiry system philosophy and characteristics --
The Churchman (1971) defined systems of inquiry based on various philosophies - those of Leibniz, Locke, Kant, Hegel, and Singer. The characteristics of an inquiry system based on E.A. Singer (1959), an American philosopher, is as follows:

  • System - open
  • Learning style -- generative, double loop
  • Learning mechanism -- trial and error, agreement and partition
  • Learning level -- multi-level
  • Learning framework -- procedural, strategic
  • Learning source -- syntactic, pragmatic, and semantic (see knowledge
  • Learning orientation -- developmental
  • Developmental orientation -- renowned
  • Obstacles -- complacency, incorrect standards, lack of oversight