Organizational learning can create a long-lasting system of positive change that can create increases in productivity for years.There is no formal definition of organizational learning, as it encompasses many different disciplines. But there are many elements of it that you can use to determine what it could be for your organization, for example:
- The process of discovering and correcting mistakes;
- Methods and processes needed to achieve learning;
- The capability to keep and improve performance based on previous experience;
- Teamwork to help each other learn.
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Types of organizational learning
Companies can interpret and use those factors in various ways, meaning organizational learning is not the same for every company. Depending on the structure, leadership, and employees in the company, one type of organizational learning may work better than another.
One theory of learning speaks to the cyclical nature of the learning process. Leaders limit or help their organizations by how they think about the cycles and processes of learning.
Monocyclic - Learning takes place by finding and fixing errors in systems.
Two-cyclic - Learning takes place through fixing errors but also increasing competencies through learning experiences.
Three-cyclic - Learning takes place through fixing errors, increasing competencies, and incorporating reflection and opportunities for new internal discoveries.
Related to the cyclical nature of learning, there are other ways that organizations can incorporate learning:
Practical learning - This type of learning focuses on real issues and real solutions to problems.
Adaptive learning - Learning occurs through experiences and evaluation or previous experiences. Data is used to correct previous mistakes or to plan data informed goals.
Forward-looking learning - When companies establish this type of learning they look to the future to decide what needs to be learned in an effort to avoid negative results.
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Elements of Organizational Learning
In order to create any kind of organizational learning structure, companies must have certain elements in place.
Leaders and managers in the organization need to support learning and incorporate learning into the company values. They also need to support new ideas, inspiration, and collaboration. They need to think about how learning will impact the company in the long-term, creating goals that reflect those thoughts, and running the organization in a manner that expects mistakes to be made.
Leaders then have the opportunity to help employees turn these mistakes into learning opportunities.
A culture of learning
In order to create a learning organization, leaders need to create a culture of learning. Everyone in the company needs to commit themselves to learning. They need to want to learn and see its benefits.
The company also has to be open to new technology and how it can positively impact learning. In fact, they should not only be open to it, they should be searching for it.
Everyone in the company needs to understand that continuous learning impacts their job performance. Employees are more likely to increase performance if they see learning as a part of their job, instead of just an isolated event that does not relate to them.
Overall, an organization needs to make sure that their practices run in a manner that is transparent, responsible, respectful, and employee-focused.
Companies need to have systems in place that incorporate technology and the dissemination of information. These systems should be able to monitor behavior and performance, as well as give rewards and feedback based on the observations.
A learning system should be mobile so that it can empower employees to get information or assistance whenever they need it. Theses technologies and systems should be set up in such a way that they can facilitate change.
Communication is a vital aspect of organizational learning. All employees need to know that the organization values learning. They need to have some say in the changes that leaders are making and need to know what the changes are once leadership decides on them. They need feedback about performance and follow up when they have made changes or have concerns.
Benefits of Organizational Learning
There are many benefits to organizational learning for both the company and its employees. Overall, organizational learning gives companies a permanent competitive advantage. This is accomplished because learning leads to more innovation and creativity. It also increases the speed of the change process. Innovation and change impact all activities of an organization, creating opportunities for more success.
Much of that change and success is also dependent on the employees in the company. Organizational learning helps employees become more productive. They are more efficient and effective in their work. This upward cycle is due in part to the feelings of empowerment and confidence that learning and better job performance give them.
If companies want to increase profits and stay competitive in the marketplace, organizational learning is one of the best ways to do it. With some changes to leadership style, company culture, communication systems, and technology organizational learning can become an integral part of any company.