Organizational Learning

Knowledge Center

Summary, forum, best practices, expert tips and information sources.

119 items • 681.242 visits



What is Organizational Learning? Definition

Chris Argyris Organizational Learning

Chris Argyris and Donald Schön (1978) defined organizational learning (OL) as: "the detection and correction of error". Fiol and Lyles later define learning as "the process of improving actions through better knowledge and understanding" (1985). Dodgson describes Organizational Learning as: The way firms build, supplement, and organize knowledge and routines around their activities and within their cultures and adapt and develop organizational efficiency by improving the use of the broad skills of their workforces. (1993). Huber states that learning occurs in an organization "if through its processing of information, the range of its [organization's] potential behaviors is changed" (1991).

A "learning organization" is a firm that purposefully constructs structures and strategies, to enhance and maximize Organizational Learning (Dodgson, 1993). The concept of a learning organization has become popular since organizations want to be more adaptable to change. Learning is a dynamic concept and it emphasizes the continually changing nature of organizations. The focus is gradually shifting from individual learning to organizational learning. Learning is essential for the growth of individuals; it is equally important for organizations. Since individuals form the bulk of the organization, they must establish the necessary forms and processes to enable organizational learning in order to facilitate change.

OL is more than the sum of the parts of individual learning (Dodgson, 1993; Fiol & Lyles, 1985). An organization does not lose out on its learning abilities when members leave the organization. Organizational learning contributes to organizational memory. Thus, learning systems not only influence immediate members, but also future members, due to the accumulation of histories, experiences, norms, and stories. Creating a learning organization is only half the solution to a challenging problem (Prahalad & Hamel, 1994). Equally important is the creation of an unlearning organization which essentially means that the organization must forget some of its past. Thus, learning occurs amidst such conflicting factors (Dodgson, 1993).

Three types of organizational learning (Argyris and Schön)

  1. Single-loop learning. This occurs when errors are detected and corrected and firms continue with their present policies and goals. According to Dodgson (1993), Single-loop learning can be equated to activities that add to the knowledge-base or firm-specific competences or routines without altering the fundamental nature of the organization's activities. Single-loop learning has also been referred to as "Lower-Level Learning" by Fiol and Lyles (1985), "Adaptive Learning" or "Coping" by Senge (1990), and "Non Strategic Learning" by Mason ('93).
  2. Double-loop learning. This occurs when, in addition to detection and correction of errors, the organization questions and modifies its existing norms, procedures, policies, and objectives. Double-loop learning involves changing the organization's knowledge-base or firm-specific competences or routines (Dodgson, 1993). Double-loop learning is also called "Higher-Level Learning" by Fiol and Lyles (1985), "Generative Learning" or "Learning to Expand an Organization's Capabilities" by Senge (1990), and "Strategic Learning" by Mason (1993). Strategic learning is defined as "the process by which an organization makes sense of its environment in ways that broaden the range of objectives it can pursue or the range of resources and actions available to it for processing these objectives." (Mason, 1993:843)
  3. Deutero-learning. This occurs when organizations learn how to carry out Single-loop learning and Double-loop learning. The first two forms of learning will not occur if the organizations are not aware that learning must occur. Being aware of ignorance motivates learning (Nevis et al., 1995). This means identifying the learning orientations or styles, and the processes and structures (facilitating factors) required to promote learning. Nevis et al., (1995) identify seven different learning styles and ten different facilitating factors that influence learning. For example, one of the facilitating factors is identifying the performance gap between targeted outcomes and actual performance. This awareness makes the organization recognize that learning needs to occur, and that the appropriate environment and processes need to be created. This also means recognizing the fact that lengthy periods of positive feedback or good communication can block learning (Argyris, 1994).

Double-loop learning and Deutero-learning are concerned with the why and how to change the organization, while Single-loop learning is concerned with accepting change without questioning underlying assumptions and core beliefs. Dodgson states that the type of Organizational Learning also depends on where in the organization the organizational learning occurs. Thus, learning can occur in different functions of the organization such as research, development, design, engineering, manufacturing, marketing, administration, and sales.

Special Interest Group

Organizational Learning Special Interest Group.

Special Interest Group
Special Interest Group (304 members)


Forum discussions about Organizational Learning. Below you can ask a question about this topic, share your experiences, report a new development, or explain something.

topic Organisation Learning Gap Analysis?
Is there any measure to identify gaps (and work out an action plan) for organisation learning?...
Comments2 comments
topic Individual and Organizational Learning
What is the relationship between individual and organizational learning?...
Comments6 comments
topic Recent article on Execution as Learning
You may want to read the recent HBR article by Amy Edmondson on Execution as Learning, which is building on elements of the thinking of Argyris c.s....
Comments1 comments
topic Value of Learning Culture
What is the value to organizations in creating a learning organizational culture? How can organizations work towards creating this culture through its HRM/HRD strategies?...
topic Learning Organization & TQM
The relationship between learning organization and Total Quality Management (TQM) is cause-and-effect. Learning is an intended outcome of TQM, TQM can be a vehicle for organizational learning and the ...
Comments1 comments
topic Organizational Learning from Failures: The Return on Failure Ratio
Over the last decades, innovation and creativity have become critical skills for achieving success. A 2015 Boston Consulting Group survey indicated that a key obstacle to business innovation and growt...
topic Informed Decisions in Rapid Change
If organizations have to make informed decisions in rapid change, then what kind of organizational learning process should we use?...
topic To Trigger Innovation and Organizational Learning, you need to Accept Creative Errors
Today’s dynamic business environment provokes an increasing pressure for companies to innovate in order to stay competitive. Companies need to find their way In triggering innovative, experimental beh...
Comments1 comments
topic The Value of Contextual Awareness in Organisation Learning
I think that even though learning by experience, though execution of similar projects, will be a valuable asset in solving problems of our current project under execution, it boils down to learning ab...
Comments4 comments
topic Implementing Organizational Learning
I appreciate the concept of organizational learning. Its operationalization has been a problem. Many times it has been reduced to the training function in the organization. Indeed people have questio...
Comments1 comments
topic Imperatives of Organisation Learning Types
Kurt Lewin's model of unfreezing, moving & refreezing would further reinforce the points put forward by Prahalad, Hamel & Dodgson above. Single loop learning has managerial imperatives; Double loop ...
Comments4 comments
topic How to Grow Organization Learning with Rapid Changes of Technology?
Companies that will be successful with OL need to identify what methods need to be adopted with current technology to ensure their competitive advantage....
Comments1 comments
topic Best Practices to Sustain the Impact of Learning in Organisations
Training and development are a critical factor in organizational development. However, how can we sustain the impact of learning within organizations; in other words, what best practices exist to ensu...
🔥 The Focus of Organizational Learning Departments Has to Change
Organizations have to change and have to become better at changing. As a result, the way of working of the Organizational Learning Department (OLD) should no longer be to just take requests and provi...
topic Applications and Usages of Organisational Learning
In what forms is organisation learning applied in the various organisations? I'm trying to create a list of the main ways how organizational learning can be applied. Thanks......

Start a new topic

Start a new topic about Organizational Learning

Best Practices

The best, top-rated topics about Organizational Learning. Here you will find the most valuable ideas and practical suggestions.

🥇 Why Apply Organizational Learning in Organizations?
Organizational learning is a social process, involving interactions among many individuals leading to well-informed decision making. An organization must learn so that it can adapt to a changing envi...
Comments19 comments

🥈 The Goals of Organization Learning are Changing
Organizations have to change and not only that - they have to become better at it. This means the goals of organizational learning must also change. The focus has to shift from job-related training...
Comments12 comments

🥉 How do You Measure Organizational Learning?
In a learning organization, how do you go about measuring organizational learning? Or is the learning organization just a myth or a brand? I would like to get feedback from you all. Thanks!...
Comments7 comments

Expert Tips

Advanced insights about Organizational Learning. Here you will find professional advices by experts.


Barriers that Hinder Effective Knowledge Sharing

Effective Knowledge Sharing, Pitfalls to Avoid, Knowledge Management Implementation
According to Chris Collison, there are seven common barriers or syndromes that hinder effective knowledge sharing and se...

Positive Effects of Age Diversity on Company Productivity and (Tacit) Knowledge Sharing

Tacit Knowledge Transfer, Organizational Learning, Incentive Management
Backes-Gellner and Veen (2013) outlined the main advantages of having a diverse workforce within a company. The followin...

How to Identify and Map Knowledge

Knowledge Identification, Knowledge Capturing, Knowledge Storage
In his article “Knowledge Mapping: The Essentials for Success”, Wesley Vestal provides following six tips to identify an...

Capturing Learned Lessons

How to Capture Organizational Learning? Best Practices
Knowledge from bad and good experiences will lead you and your organization to better future performance. You can improv...

Critical Activities to Build a Learning Organization

Implementing Organizational Learning, Best Practices
Learning organizations are distinguished because they are undertaking certain activities to foster the internal learning...

The Relationship between Organizational Learning and Performance

Tensions and Remedies
In a paper by Sara J. Singer and Amy C. Edmondson of HBS, the complexities of the relationship between learning and perf...

Key Behaviors of Innovative Organizations

Innovation Management, Culture Change, Organizational Change, Innovative Culture, Organizational Culture
Many large-scale attempts to make organizations more innovative are experiencing organizational inertia, barriers and/or...

How to Become a Self-tuning Enterprise: Advanced Experimenters

Organizational Agility, Strategic Agility, Real Options, Emergent Strategy
In an HBR article of June 2015, Reeves, Zeng and Venjara argue there's a new way to apply algorithmic principles that en...

How Culture Levels Explain Failures in Organizational Learning and Innovation

Improving Organizational Learning, Organizational Innovation, Changing Organization Cultures
Schein (as cited by Bertagni et al., 2010) tries to elaborate on the question why organizational innovations often fail ...

Additional Definitions of Organizational Learning

Organizational Learning
There is still a great deal of disagreement on what constitutes organizational learning. Most scholars view organization...

What are Smart Creatives? Traits

R&D, Product Development, Service Development, Strategy, Innovation, HR, Career Management
To accommodate the strategic demands of the internet age, clever, creative knowledge workers are needed in product/servi...

Generating New and Useful Ideas in Innovation: Avoiding the Primal Mark

Innovation, Creativity, Organizational Innovativeness, Lateral Thinking, Out of the Box Thinking, Avoiding Anchoring
In today's dynamic environment, to stay competitive continuous innovations and new ideas are important. For a creative i...

Knowledge Management Scope

Knowledge Management, Level of Know-how
Research by Deishin Lee (HBS) and Eric Van den Steen (MIT) shows that recording mediocre know-how can actually be counte...

Components of Learning Agility

Organizational Agility, Organizational Learning, Knowledge Management
One of the critical factors for achieving organizational agility is learning agility, which refers to the ability and ea...

Knowledge Management Focal Point

Knowledge Management Focus
Research by Deishin Lee (HBS) and Eric Van den Steen (MIT) shows that information about successes is typically more usef...
Information Sources

Various sources of information regarding Organizational Learning. Here you will find powerpoints, videos, news, etc. to use in your own lectures and workshops.


Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning

Models, Implementation, Overview, Examples
An extensive presentation explaining both the concept of Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning by H. Gundogan...

Knowledge Management Systems Architecture

Knowledge Management, Knowledge Creation, Knowledge Systems, Knowledge Architecture
This presentation is about knowledge development and management, including the following sections: 1. Overview 2. Know...

How to Improve Knowledge Sharing in Knowledge-intensive Organizations

Knowledge Management, Knowledge Sharing Motivation, Knowledge Sharing Platform. Tacit Knowledge
This presentation elaborates on the concept of knowledge sharing, thereby focusin on a knowledge-intensive organization ...

Learning Agility and Enterprise Agility

Organizational Agility
This presentation provides insights into the usage of organizational agility in your organization. The presentation incl...

Introduction to Knowledge Management: Foundation Principles and Building Concepts

Knowledge Management, Knowledge Sharing, Learning Organization
1. What is Knowledge? 1. What is Knowledge Management? Definition 2. Knowledge Foundation Principles and Building Conc...

Learning from Rare Experiences

Organizational Learning
Paper by Charles E. Eesley and Edward B. Roberts explores the conditions under which learning occurs from small samples ...

Knowledge Management, Organizational Learning and Intellectual Capital

Intellectual Capital, Knowledge Management, Organizational Learning
Presentation about organizational knowledge, learning and intellectual capital. The presentation includes the following ...

Elements of a Cognitive Theory of the Firm

Organizational Learning
Paper by Bart Nooteboom presents elements of a cognitive theory of the firm, from the perspective of embodied cognition....

Organizational Learning: Single Loop Learning, Double Loop Learning and Triple Loop Learning

Organizational Learning
- Single loop new learning is about following the rules while trying to correct a problem. - Double loop learning could...

Professor Evans Explains Why Fast Change Requires New Ways of Learning and Thinking

Action Learning, Coping with Change, The Need of Change, The Need for New Ways of Learning
In this historic video Action Learning Professor Reg Evans shows that it is very important to understand that today's ra...

How to Integrate Internal Organizational Knowledge with External Online Communities

Knowledge Management, Knowledge Creation, Knowledge Sharing, Interaction, Knowledge in Organizations
Due to many online and web-based technological developments in today´s digital economy, sharing knowledge in online comm...

Knowledge Sharing and Organizational Learning through Communities of Practices

Knowledge Sharing, Organizational Learning, Communities of Practices, Special Interest Groups
Knowledge management in Communities of Practice (CoPs) This presentation is about organizational learning and knowledge...

Three Levels of Knowledge Management

Initial Understanding Knowledge Management, Organizational Learning
According to Jury (2007), knowledge management can be categorized into three different levels, and organized in a pyrami...

Introduction to Organizational Learning and Learning Organizations

Organizational Learning, Learning Organizations
Presentation that gives a clear overview to the concept of Organizational Learning (OL). The following sections are incl...

Introduction of Organizational Learning

Initial Understanding of Organizational Learning
Peter Senge explains that Organizational Learning is about how organizations work at their bests. It comes down to how p...

The Difference Between Organizational Learning and Knowledge Management

Initial Understanding of the Difference Between OL en KM
Dr. Edward Rogers puts forth that organizational learning and knowledge management are often considered to be synonyms a...

How Single and Double Loop Learning Help Operational Managers Become Leaders

Initial Understanding of Single and Double Loop Learning
A great way for managers to get out of their operational mode and become leaders is to help them to stand back from day ...

Research Links

Jump to further research sources regarding Organizational Learning.













Compare with: Organizational Memory  |  Bridging Epistemologies  |  Knowledge Management (Collison & Parcell)  |  SECI model  |  Gestalt Theory  |  Action Learning  |  Intellectual Capital Rating  |  Levels of Culture  |  Change Phases  |  Organic Organization  |  Changing Organization Cultures  |  People CMM  |  MAGIC  |  Experience Curve  |  Team Management Profile

Return to Management Hub: Change & Organization  |  Human Resources  |  Knowledge & Intangibles

More Management Methods, Models and Theory

Special Interest Group

Special Interest Group

Do you know a lot about Organizational Learning? Become our SIG Leader and gain worldwide recognition as an expert.

About 12manage | Advertising | Link to us / Cite us | Privacy | Suggestions | Terms of Service
© 2023 12manage - The Executive Fast Track. V16.3 - Last updated: 21-9-2023. All names ™ of their owners.

12manage is looking for BA/MBA students. More info.