Learning Organizations

Cite this article as:"Learning Organizations," in The Business Professor, updated April 2, 2020, last accessed June 5, 2020, https://thebusinessprofessor.com/lesson/learning-organizations/.

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What are Learning Organizations?

The concept of a Learning Organization was proposed by professor David Garvin in his article Building an Organization (1993).

Marvin defined a learning organization as “an organization skilled at creating, acquiring, and transferring knowledge, and at modifying its behavior to reflect new knowledge and insights.”

The five defining characteristics of a learning organization are:

  • Systematic Problem Solving – The company must employ scientific models for addressing problems. This means employing qualitative and quantitative measurements in the decision-making process.
  • Experimentation – Companies must be willing to search for and test with new concepts in a formalized way. This breaks down existing misunderstandings.
  • Learning from Past Experience – Companies must continually identify lessons learned from past activities. These after-action reviews allow the organization to identify and document successful and unsuccessful activities.
  • Learning from Others – Companies must actively observe the activities of third parties (inside and outside of the organization and industry). This requires establishing relationships with other organizations. The actions of these third parties can serve as lessons for future activity.
  • Transferring Knowledge – Companies must document and share knowledge and information throughout the organization. This makes certain there is a commonality of understanding and knowledge at all levels.

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