Organizational Learning versus The Learning Organization: a comparison

In the general field of learning in organizations, confusion between Organizational Learning and Learning Organization is maintained and even intensified by several aspects. The two perspectives are often confused, because of the symmetry of terms. Second, “organizational learning” is used in many situations with the old technical meaning (reception and storage of information), which confuses more the receptors of studies. Third, the expression “learning organization” determined, for a segment of researchers, the idea that only educational organizations could be the subject of this orientation (assimilating in a wrong way the concept of learning organization with schools, universities or research centers).

From the two definitions cited before we can see that the spheres of the two concepts have something in common, but are not the same. Still, the two concepts and the scientific orientations need to be characterized after their main features.

The theoretical ground for OL is larger, providing more possibilities of development in the future). The evolution of theories in social sciences shows that an interdisciplinary ground is more nurturing for further development, compared to narrow and specialized paths. By the opposite, LO capacity to bring novelty of theory is limited to propose only related concepts (as the examples given above, learning community or evolving organization). The age of OL perspective is double than the age of LO, which proves also a greater capacity to survive and develop for the former perspective. And, if someone would evaluate the circulation between the two perspectives, would identify a traffic of ideas from OL to LO, but little traffic in the reverse direction.

Finally, the empirical field is not so generous in case of LO as intended by Peter Senge and his followers. On one hand, the percentage of studies in this school using original empirical data is under 50%. On the other hand, the application of the concept in the real organizational environment proved to be limited (questions were raised if “learning organizations” really exist or could be created in reality, following the various paths proposed by LO studies).

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