Learning Organizations Come Alive

By Gephart, Martha A.; Marsick, Victoria J. et al. | Training & Development, December 1996 | Go to article overview

Learning Organizations Come Alive


Gephart, Martha A., Marsick, Victoria J., Van Buren, Mark E., Spiro, Michelle S., Senge, Peter, Training & Development


Here's how to give life to the concept of the learning organization - plus a look inside some actual learning organizations to see how they thrive.

Since the publication of Peter Senge's The Fifth Discipline and The Learning Company by Mike Pedler, Tom Burgoyne, and Tom Boydell in the early 1990s, there has been a proliferation of advice on the learning organization.

Almost every day, new approaches and tools appear, promising to help companies become learning organizations. The present level of interest in learning organizations in the United States and worldwide is unparalleled.

For instance, in the 1995 National HRD Executive Survey, conducted by the American Society for Training and Development, 94 percent of respondents said that it is important to build a learning organization. A 1996 survey of almost 200 German companies, conducted by DEKRA Akademie with the Maisberger and Partner consulting firm, found that 90 percent consider themselves to be a learning organization, or in the process of becoming one.

Last year, ASTD began reviewing the state of knowledge and practice regarding learning organizations. To assess and compare current approaches to becoming a learning organization, ASTD's research department developed an assessment tool, The Learning Organization Assessment Framework. (See The Learning Organization Assessment Framework on page 41.)

The framework identifies three levels or orientations of learning: individual, team or group, and organizational. It also identifies organizational systems that facilitate learning. The framework was used to collect data from international experts on the characteristics and behaviors that might be found in a learning organization, for each level of learning and organizational system.

Not all aspects of learning organizations are new; some are things that companies have been doing for years. This article relies particularly on examples from The Global Learning Organization by Michael Marquardt and Angus Reynolds (Irwin, 1994); Sculpting the Learning Organization by Karen E. Watkins and Victoria J. Marsick (Jossey-Bass, 1993); and In Action: Creating the Learning Organization, edited by Watkins and Marsick (ASTD, 1996).

A definition

All organizations learn, but not always for the better. A learning organization is an organization that has an enhanced capacity to learn, adapt, and change. It's an organization in which learning processes are analyzed, monitored, developed, managed, and aligned with improvement and innovation goals. Its vision, strategy, leaders, values, structures, systems, processes, and practices all work to foster people's learning and development and to accelerate systems-level learning. (See the box, The Essence of a Learning Organization.)

Systems-level learning. In any organization, learning occurs at multiple levels: individual, group, and organizational. Although individuals and teams or groups are the agents through which organizational learning occurs, learning organizations focus primarily on systems-level organizational learning.

Systems-level learning is more than the sum of employees' intellectual capital and learning. It occurs when organizations synthesize and then institutionalize people's intellectual capital and learning that are housed in their memories - their cultures, knowledge systems, and routines - and in their core competencies.

Employees may come and go, and leadership may change. But an organization's memories preserve behaviors, norms, values, and "mental maps" over time. As an organization addresses and solves problems of survival, it builds a culture that becomes the repository for lessons learned. And it creates core competencies that represent the collective learning of its employees, past and present. As members of the organization leave and new ones join and are socialized, knowledge and competence are transferred across generations of learning. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Learning Organizations Come Alive
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.