Modes of Organization Learning and the Learning Processes Prevalent in India – Literature review

2.10 Description of Organization Learning

Organizational learning, having been shaped from various disciplines such as psychology, management science and economics, has attracted diverse opinions as to what it constitutes. Such opinions have been moderated by the perception of how a social structure that is goal oriented bears the capacity to learn as organisms have (Maier, Prange & von Rosenstiel 2003). The dynamic nature of various environments that impact on business outcomes however has implied that organizations can only achieve excellence by transforming themselves in line with such changes; thus, they have to learn. Accordingly, Maier, Prange and von Rosenstiel (2003) observe that organizational learning is a concept that describes the processes through which organizations establish a broad spectrum of competencies that includes enhanced ability to acquire knowledge.

Adding to the opinions about what organizational learning constitutes, has been the concept of learning organizations. Reviewing prior literature, Ortenblad (2001) notes definitions of organizational learning as processes that occur in the learning organization, the latter being a specific type of organization where such processes of learning are among its core characteristic. Despite such a perspective of a learning organization to be a distinct entity, such as a knowledge-intensive firm, other studies (e.g. Dodgson 1993) cited by Ortenblad points out that any organization could achieve this status by moving “beyond natural learning” (2001, p. 127). Other perspectives have differentiated the two concepts by the target group, arguing that organization learning tends to be academic but learning organization has practical orientation (Ortenblad 2001). However, a relatively new concept of organizational learning, proposed by Ortenblad (2001), and which this paper adopts is that organizational learning is a collective cultural process where the concept of learning is dynamic, thus not stored. In this perspective, firms such as automobile manufacturers learn how to manufacture autos in a particular fashion, as a collective; such “knowing” thus cannot be replicated by other entities and any new member has to be inducted into this learning process (Ortenblad 2001).

2.20 Importance of Organization Learning

Organizational learning has various contributions towards an entity’s outcomes. Khandekar and Sharma (2006) in studying the role of organizational learning (OL) with respect to organizational performance, for instance, found out that OL as reflected through human resource management (HRM) is positively associated with the performance of the firm. In an earlier study Khandekar and Sharma (2005) had found a positive association between OL and strategic HRM (SHRM) and the ability of a firm to sustain its competitive advantage. SHRM is suggested to be a way through which organizations can develop practices that are hard to imitate (Kim & Gray 2005; Nonaka, Toyama and Byosiere 2003).

Other studies have evaluated effects of organizational learning with respect to specific attributes. For instance, Jabar, Soosay and Santa (2011) found out that the transfer of technology in a sample of Malaysian manufacturers was significantly dependent on components of OL such as absorptive capacity and learning environment. Although the study found out that OL did not always have a concurrent effect on new product development, whenever it was associated with transfer of technology, technology transfer was nevertheless shown to foster establishment of innovative approaches that enhanced capabilities for NPD (Jaba, Soosay & Santa 2011). In another that among other objectives examined the association between OL and knowledge management, found out these two variables to be positively correlated (Singh & Sharma 2011). The study in turn found out that effective knowledge management enhanced employee satisfaction, with a sample comprising from telecommunication companies in India. Other studies have linked OL to innovation (e.g. Sushil & Jain 2011) and suggestions abound that “the ability to learn faster than one’s competitor is a significant source of competitive advantage” (Mishra & Bhaska 2011, p. 345). Such is suggested because knowledge contributes in such processes as building brand equity, thus those firms that can “learn, create or gain knowledge, have a clear source of power” with which they can compete effectively (Mishra & Bhaska 2011, p. 345). Go to part 3 here.

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