A critical perspective on the Learning Organization theory

Glasmeier et al. (1998) revealed some weak points of the learning organization model:  the lack of a universally accepted definition of firm learning and misuse of terms; the lack of understanding of the nature of learning in organizations; little knowledge about how companies determine their need to acquire new information; a firm’s ability to absorb new information is a function of the previous experiences; learning is history dependent. The remarks of the authors focused on the definition and nature of learning, and on the way information is transformed in knowledge.

The critiques could be continued with several assumptions about the missing connections in the social and emotional continuum of the organization. (a) Learning is not only cognition, is also emotional growth and change for individuals. The way in which individuals integrate information in knowledge is personal (not saying is unique), thus the effectiveness of models in this aspect is doubtful. (b) Organizational identity is a dynamic concept, tied with the development experiences, and should play a major role in generating the learning organization. (c) The theory speaks very little of the aim of organizational learning: organizations learn not only for their business objectives, but for their mission’s fulfillment. The mission includes also playing a “social role” in the entire living that integrates the organization. (d) There were several attempts to compose “recipes” for building a learning organization; but in the authentic meaning a learning organization could only “grow naturally”. Items like trust, commitment and cohesion become important as possible generative factors, as frames for interpreting reality.

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