Using Communication Technology: Creating Knowledge Organizations

By Bettina S. T. Büchel | Go to book overview
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Communication Technology and Organizational Learning

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, organizational learning achieved prominence among the ideas influencing management studies. The topic has attracted increasing attention, both in academic circles (Argyris and Schön, 1978; Shrivastava, 1983; Fiol and Lyles, 1985; Levitt and March, 1988; Huber, 1991), and in business practice (Hayes et al., 1988; Pedler et al., 1990; Senge, 1990; Garvin, 1993). One of the main reasons for this is the increasing pressure for change on organizations.

Unfortunately, both the definition and the use of the term ‘organizational learning’ are still associated with considerable confusion (Edmondson and Moingeon, 1998; Easterby-Smith et al., 1998). The organizational learning field has the problem of trying to unify different theoretical approaches, while at the same time valuing the diversity that has evolved since its inception. With an increasing number of articles in the area of organizational learning and a lack of integration among theoretical perspectives, a variety of terms has accumulated which serve as multiple reference points for the organizational learning construct.

Two main streams of literature have emerged, which can be classified as (i) behavioural adaptation to changing environments; and (ii) changes in the organizational knowledge base. While the first group focuses on change in behaviour, the second focuses on change in the state of knowledge, 1 which creates the potential for changing behaviour. However, it is important to note that ‘change in behavior without a corresponding change in cognition, or change in cognition without a corresponding change in behavior, are transitional states since they create a tension between one’s beliefs and one’s action’ (Inkpen and Crossan, 1995, p. 599). This tension can only be resolved by integrating a change in behaviour at the same time as a change in cognition, so that beliefs and actions are in accordance with each other.


One of the organizational learning concepts, which has integrated both perspectives, has been proposed by Huber (1991). He suggests that ‘an entity learns if, through the processing of information, the range of its potential behaviors is changed’ (Huber, 1991, p. 89). The processing of information is the cognitive dimension, while the change in behaviour refers to the behavioural dimension. The operationalization of the cognitive construct, which is an indicator of one of


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Using Communication Technology: Creating Knowledge Organizations


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