A Forum-Based Organizational Memory as Organizational Learning Support

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Globalization, information and communication technologies (ICT), innovation, are the new criteria of the economic environment. They transformed our way of learning and working. The company's knowledge capital is increasingly crucial. The existence of an organization depends mainly on its capacity:

* To access new knowledge (technological survey, innovation, experience feedbacks ...),

* To diffuse its know-how quickly (integration of new collaborators, harmonization of practices in company ...),

* To exploit efficaciously and preserve its fields of expertise durably (sharing good practices, knowledge management, capitalization ...).

In this context, companies must take into consideration two new risks:

* Knowledge obsolescence with respect to its environment (technologies, competitors, markets, methods ...). It is thus necessary to change from a stock logic to a flow logic which could be used to set up devices of training and innovation.

* Loss of know-how, competencies. This loss can take place in time (retirement, mutation ...). It can also take place through space when know-how, competencies are used only in one site but not in the other sites of the company.

The traditional organizations don't favour learning and thus are not prepared to answer to these risks. A great number of lessons, experience feedbacks are acquired then lost. In order to cure that, traditional organizations must transfer towards learning organizations, i.e. organizations in which work is embedded in the organizational culture that allows and encourages the training at various levels (individual, group and organization) and the transfers of knowledge between these levels. Two ways seem promising for allowing this change: facilitating the constitution of communities of practice (CoPs) and facilitating the organizational learning. A digital environment based on an organizational memory could serve these two ways.

Within the project MEMORAe2.0 [1], our objective is to valuated the contribution of organizational memory and community of practice for favouring organizational learning. In order to support organizational learning we developed the E-MEMORAe2.0 (1) environment based on an organizational memory allowing the capitalization and the distribution of knowledge and resources. Thanks to this environment, users can use, produce or exchange resources and knowledge. They have to access to communication resources (like course, book, ...) but also to exchange resources (like forum) and they can adapt them to their needs thanks to different types of memory.

In the following, we present the organizational learning approach, we stress the role of an organizational memory in this approach and we define the concept of learning organizational memory. We show how it enables knowledge transfer processes thanks to the use of community of practice and tools like forum. Then we present the approach MEMORAe and we describe how we implemented this approach in the E-MEMORAe2.0 environment. Finally we present the E-MEMORAe2.0 evaluation and feedback.

2. Organizational learning, organizational memory and learning organizational memory

A learning organization (LO) is an organization in which processes are imbedded in the organizational culture that allows and encourages learning at the individual, group and organizational level [Senge 1990]. Thus a LO must be skilled at creating, acquiring, and transferring knowledge, and at modifying its behavior to reflect new knowledge and insights [Garvin 1994]. According to [Dodgson 1993], a LO is a firm that purposefully constructs structures and strategies so as to enhance and maximize organizational learning (OL). An organization cannot learn without continuous learning by its members [Dodgson 1993]. Individual learning is not organizational learning until it is converted into OL. …