Reading Time: 7 minutes

Summary

Dodgson, M. (1993). Organizational learning: A review of some literatures. Organization Studies,14(3), 375–394. https://doi.org/10.1177/017084069301400303
  • Organizational Learning is essential to organizational development. While the benefits of organizational learning are positive, it sometimes involves negative outcomes, that can then be learned from. Organizational learning involves recognizing the role of individual learning, and valuing individual learning. Finally, learning occurs throughout all activities the organization engages in, however it will vary in speed and depth.
  • A learning organization acknowledges itself as a place of learning and provides space for transformation. The organization encourages individuals to learn and develop. Understands the complexity of learning, as it includes multiple stakeholders.
  • When exploring adaptation within organizational learning, it is important to not confine this to reductionistic views of behaviourism. Learning within an organization is not solely controlled by external stimuli. It is influenced by collective and individual learning. Individual human agency, and goals (e.g., self actualization) may play a role. It is the interaction between environmental changes and internal (to the organization and individual) that facilitate adaptation and learning.
Brown, J. S., & Duguid, P. (1991). Organizational learning and communities-of-practice: Toward a unified view of working, learning, and innovation. Organization Science, 2(1), 40–57. https://doi.org/10.1287/orsc.2.1.40
  • Work and learning are often conceptualized as two different and opposing concepts. Works is often seen as conservative and static/resistant to change. While learning is potentially problematic as it causes change within the working system. However, innovation is viewed as disruptive to both learning and work, but often needed to influence change within both work and learning systems.
    • Seeing these three as functional and interrelated requires a conceptual shift.
  • This gap is created due to the gap between policy, research, and practice.
    • Policy, education, training, etc. are often are not informed by actual practice, or designed to effectively be integrated into practice.
  • However, Brown and Dugruid suggest that practice is central to understanding work.   “Without a clear understanding of those intricacies and the role they play, the practice itself cannot be well understood, engendered (through training), or enhanced (through innovation).” (p. 40)
  • Often work relies on job descriptions, methods, protocols. However, placing an emphasis on these, and not acknowledging the valuable insights of those who actually conduct the work may stifle development and innovation.
  • Brown & Druguid refer to Lave & Wenger’s theory of (1990) learning as “legitimate peripheral participation” in “communities-of-practice”.
  • Often times, when reflecting back on work, it is conceptualized as a task alone, as opposed to taking into account the many decisions and procedures involved to complete the task. (modus operandi vs. opus operatum).
    • Organizations seek to develop simple, canonical steps to complete tasks/jobs/work. However, actual practice is much messier, and context, individuals, and potential complications need to be acknowledged.
  • We must acknowledge the “complexity of the actual practices” (p. 42)
  • Often training programs “downskill” during training, causing practitioners to feel the training is not useful. This creates a divide between the organization and the practitioners. As practitioners feel the organization doesn’t understand their job, while the organization begins to feel the practitioners are untrainable and/or uncooperative.
  • Through a community of practice (communication, and space where ideas can be shared while valuing each others perspectives/positions; this is an over simplification, I will be posting about Communities of practice specifically, very soon), both the organization and practitioners begin to increase their own knowledge and understanding of the work to be done, and each other’s contributions.
  • Practitioners share their work through narration (Orr, YEAR). The social network within organizations relies in part on the narration/story-telling/sharing of experiences. Often these casual discussions share important information that can be adaptable and particular to informing practice. This can inform organizations understanding of practice, but also create a “repository of accumulated knowledge” (p. 45)
  • We must understand that work is collaborative and communal (Orr, YEAR). Knowledge is socially constructed within the organization. Practitioners share stories, develop insights, and develop new methods for accomplishing tasks.
    • Within the organization, practitioners work is often viewed as individual, thus, there needs to be a conceptual shift to a more collaborative understanding.
    • We must also acknowledge that as knowledge and practice are socially constructed, they are also situated, highly contextual and informed by history.
  • Legitimate Peripheral Participation (LPP) “is not a method of education” (p. 48). It is a tool to gain understanding of learning across methods, history, and environments (social and physical).
    • LPP requires one to become an insider, as knowledge is no abstract but rather rooted in community. It is less about expert knowledge, but rather understanding the behaviour of community members.
  • For such a community to exist, members’ mindset must be that of the organization not having a hierarchy, but rather that all members have a role to play, and are simply members of the community.
    • However, the nature of community is often unbounded and not recognized by the organization. This conceptualization of community is less bounded, and often includes people from outside the organization.
    • Without acknowledging that these types of communities exist within your research, whether formally or informally, you risk missing out on part of the overall picture.
  • Canonical accounts of work can be hard to change. Communities of practice facilitate a context in which alternative views can be explored through experience.
Sinkula, J. M., Baker, W. E., & Noordewier, T. (1997). A framework for market-based organizational learning: Linking values, knowledge, and behavior. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science,25(4), 305–318. https://doi.org/10.1177/0092070397254003
  • The literature on learning organizations is split. While some literature focuses on information generation and dissemination as ways in which organizations learning, other literature focuses on the need to have shared mental models, and organizational vision, while being open-minded (Senge, 1990, 1992).
  • Organizational learning is cyclical in that individual actions, lead to organizational actions and interactions with the environment. These actions and outcomes are then assessed by the individuals (Lee, Courtney, and O’Keefe, 1992).
  • Shaw and Perkins (1991) suggest that companies that excel at learning are those that are willing to be reflective, and place value on their experiences in understanding cause and effect situations.
Levitt, B., & March, J. G. (1988). Organizational learning. Annual Review of Sociology, 14, 319–340. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.so.14.080188.001535
  • Levitt and March’s understanding of organizational learning is based on three observations from the literature:
    • Organizational behaviour is based on routines (Cyert & March, 1963; Nelson & Winter, 1982).
    • Action relies more on matching procedures to situations than creatively come up with potential actions for desired outcomes. Such decisions are rooted in history rather than the future aspirations.
    • Organizations are goal directed in that they process outcomes in terms of the anticipated goals.
  • With these observations in mind, Levitt and March propose that organizational learning happens as the organization takes inferences from history and applies them to their routines that guide behaviour within the organization.
  • “Routines are transmitted through socialization, education, imitation, professionalization, personnel movement, mergers, and acquisitions.” (p. 320)
    • And they change based on experience and outcomes.
      • Trial and error
      • Organization search (looking for alternative ways of doing things)
  • Routines occur within nested levels, and thus requires multi-level learning.
    • Hierarchy creates complex interactions for learning, and the higher order alternatives often aren’t informed by experience.
    • Different levels often interpret the outcomes and processes in much different ways.
    • Different groups have different goals and evaluate outcomes based on those goals much differently.
  • However, there exists a competency trap in which routines that elicit desirable results are used more frequently, thus building their effectiveness and people’s familiarity with them. However, a functional but inefficient routine may be used, and due to the fact that it works, but perhaps not efficiently, its use continues. These traps may then influence any new routines that may try to be implemented.
  • Organizational learning and change require the redefinition of events, and concepts. This can be achieved through reflection, community building, and paradigm shifts.
  • The routines that organizations use are often rooted in relatively arbitrary actions that were previously used, rather than the information that is conveyed in such an action to inform learning.
  • Records of inferences drawn from experience are often recorded in the form of procedures, files, policies, rules, etc., and less formally in the perception of “how things are done around here”.
  • Organizational learning that is focused on experiential learning, must account for, and make space for organizational networks, and the individual organization.
  • Organizational learning can diffuse knowledge through communication/interaction between organizations, consultants, individuals, etc. The individuals then go and take this information to their own networks (two-stage diffusion).
  • “Organizations are collections of subunits learning in an environment that consists largely of other collections of learning subunits (Cangelosi & Dill 1965). The ecological structure is a complication in two senses. First, it complicates learning. Because of the simultaneously adapting behavior of other organizations, a routine may produce different outcomes: at different times, or different routines may produce the same outcome at different times. Second, an ecology of learners complicates the systematic comprehension and modeling of learning processes. Environments change endogenously, and even relatively simple conceptions of learning become complex.” (p.331)

Connections

Sinkula et al, discuss the current state of learning organization literature as being divided (see above). However, in a school/educational setting, wouldn’t the organization need to be both generating and sharing information, and fostering a sense of shared vision, mental models and open mindedness? I think through the concept of communities of practice, perhaps it is more about generating and sharing information while also being open minded. The community of practice itself will form based on a shared interest.

Within my research I hope to create a form of community of practice through a research website. Specifically, to have research that is informed by practice, and that research to then inform practice. This will be accomplished through data collection with practitioners, and engagement with practitioners throughout the research analysis process, as well as potentially a broader population of practitioners, who can then take what is being discovered and apply it to their own practice. As I engage with data, and begin to analyze I will be sharing my reflections, and potentially excerpts from data (ethics allowing) to engage with the practitioners and broader research community. Ideally, bringing together research, organization, and practitioners in a thoughtful discussion.

Work/policy/programs can learn from and needs to place an emphasis on non-canonical practices. Such an approach within research, would help to illuminate these non-canonical practices to help inform not only the board practices but also help to inform the current conceptualization of bullying prevention/intervention programs.

The Brown & Druguid article reaffirmed my decision to keep my research open through a website, as communities are fluid and true communities of practice are often not bound specifically within the organization. Therefore, keeping the research website itself open and encouraging dialogue from outside the board may be beneficial, as “members” from outside may be able to provide valuable insight or a critical eye.

However, this notion of unbounded communities raises the question of: Where are teachers obtaining their bullying/classroom management/etc resources? My best guesses at this time are peers; pd; online websites; online forums; twitter.

Ultimately, I wonder whether such a website would  create an opportunity for periphery learning and discussions?

It is my goal that in creating and exploring existing communities of practice, I will create and witness feedback loops within the organization, thus creating an opportunity for organization learning, and gaining an understanding of how an educational organization learns, adapts, and integrates outside participation/knowledge. Individuals can then take what they engage with on the website and create an opportunity for the two-stage diffusion that Levitt and March refer to.

Things to explore further

  • The work of Peter Senge & Donald Schön (Thank you to Tylor Burrows for the recommendation)
  • Communities of Practice (the work of Wenger)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

css.php