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Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning

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Online Course: Knowledge Management in Organizations

The world changes in accelerated motion, in in the available technologies and so much for the global reach of our interaction. Interaction with the global community seems to be more complex and more serious. The problem is how to manage this change, that affects not only our work life, but also society as a whole and specially business.

Today, universities are far from being the only organizations for whom the creation and sharing of knowledge represent their central source of competitive advantage. The question of knowledge work is of widespread interest in all sectors of the economy, and it is important to recognize innovations in the process of knowledge work... There is also an increasing concern with how intellectual capital can be recognized and measured alongside the traditional physical capital of an organization. *

Organizations (groups of people with a common purpose) have an important reaction to this challenge. Organizational learning deals with leading organizations (private, government, voluntaries, etc.) in a way that they can operate more efficiently, stimulating people to reach their maximum development and contribute to make of this world a better place.

This activity draws from important disciplines and principles: an organization learns when it achieves the future it wanted to reach. In the business world, learning is much more than reaching our goals, in this highly competitive world, learning can give the organization the margin it needs to survive and keep itself competitive.

Some important disciplines that sustain organizational learning:

  • Systemic approach refers to attaining a deep understanding of the whole system through the comprehension of the relationships that weave "the system". All organizational systems are open systems, influenced by the environment and therefore highly complex. In these systems there's not an easy understanding of anything.

  • Business culture comprises values and standards shared by people or groups in the organization, that determine the character of group internal interaction and the external relationships of the organization. Business culture is founded on the ideas and convictions about our own goals and norms of behavior in order to win. From these organizational values, internal staff behavior norms are shaped.

  • Shared vision is the result of everyone's understanding of what the organization is trying to attain, engaging him in the effort, conscious of his contribution. Group conscience.

  • Mental models. A mental model is the conception an individual has of himself and of the others, of his context and of the things he interacts with. A mental model is an individual interpretation, more than objective it is built upon analogies.

  • Personal mastery refers to what we want to achieve in life and work. This attitude, continuously sustained, becomes a discipline. Personal domain extends beyond competences and abilities, it means directing our own life as a creative work, living creatively, instead of living it with a reactive approach.

  • Team learning (yes, also in business). As a result, it is the rare sensation of synergy and productiveness that happens when you're "in the groove." When a team is truly learning, the group as a whole becomes much more than just the sum of its parts.

  • Corporate social responsibility. It is the effect of the activity of some organization (and industry or school) on society, how it affects other organizations and families). How can a company contribute to improve this world to a better place for everyone.

  • Group dialog has the goal of consolidating collective intelligence. This dialog is possible through the modern techniques that, with practice and discipline are not currently part of traditional forms of conversation.

  • The role of leadership is fundamental in organizational learning. Part of management work is obtaining that every employee in the organization can unleash his full potential. The assumption of this responsibility is redefining management activity in all organizations, not only in business.

Private life and work are also important disciplines that have a certain incidence in Organizational Learning.

If these disciplines construct organizational learning, it's easy to understand that their absence prevents it.

But... is there some organization that has implemented all these disciplines? Surely not, but organizations that do not implement them, start reducing their presence, until they disappear. Each of these disciplines integrates with the others. It is like if all members of the organization push with their shoulders on the same direction with all their forces.

Organizational learning is a fundamental element in knowledge management. Both integrate in the stimulation of creativity, in the reduction of complexity, in the simplification of processes, and in the application of best practices.

Training (it depends on how do we use the term) is far away from " organizational learning", though one can benefit the other; knowledge management is an important strategy in both things.

Surprisingly, organizational learning is not different on its application or goals in business, research organizations, government, non profit organizations, libraries or the school we would like for our kids.

Based on "The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. This is a book by Peter Senge focusing on group problem solving using the systems thinking method in order to convert companies into learning organizations.

* From "Building for Business Knowledge: Constructing a new business school in the heart of London." Clive Holtham. Business Information Review, 20(4), December 2003

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