What is Organizational Learning?

Learning–the process of forming, sharing, and storing pertinent information, is necessary for both individuals and organizations to succeed. Similarly, organizational learning gleans information from individuals, group actions, and even mistakes to suit the needs of an organization. It is a fundamental process in the development of an organization. The process of knowledge creation can help an organization flourish, even when that organization faces outside stress.


Though organizational learning is a collective process, individuals are still highly valuable in the development of useful information. Indeed, individuals are particularly important in the process of sharing information. Ideally, one individual will share information with another member of the same organization. The information will be filtered and disseminated in a chain reaction of shared knowledge. The resulting knowledge will help the organization act upon a concept, eventually transforming that concept into a reality. When an organization shares a cohesive plan, it is easier for that organization to complete the steps necessary to fulfill their goal. Outside information, stress, or pressure will not be able to meaningfully affect the actions of an organization whose members share a cohesive vision.


The process of organizational learning begins when a group formulates a concept. Next, the organization will work to achieve that concept. Finally, the group will reflect upon the actions taken to transform their concept into a reality. A group with good organizational learning seeks to best create, share, and preserve useful information. Further, they seek to apply that useful information to future concepts.


In organizational learning, after an idea has been formed, the organization will act to realize the idea. For example, if a theoretical organization planned to translate books, television series, and movies for a worldwide audience, then they would take the actions necessary to fulfill that plan. Yet, this is but one potential concept selected from a practically infinite set of concepts–what remains constant is the process by which an organization develops and acts upon an idea.


In the final stage of the organizational learning cycle, the group will reflect upon the all of the steps taken to accomplish their goals. They will evaluate the successful or unsuccessful conclusions of their actions. Through this reflection, the organization can filter the resulting information in order to extract the most valuable instances of knowledge from their experiences. This knowledge will be used in their next concept.


Ideally, an organization will succeed with their first concept. Unfortunately, success is not always guaranteed. However, mistakes do not always result in complete failure. Even an initial failure can be transformed into a future success. When a group can evaluate the outside influences that hindered their actions–such as competition, social issues, or financial pressure–they can apply that knowledge and prevent the same mistakes from occurring in their future concepts.


When a group can positively apply organizational learning, they can fully accomplish their goals and can thrive, even when facing negative pressure or competition. A healthy organization will seek to fully apply their ability to create, share, and reflect upon the information.  Check our article on potluck salad recipe ideas to have something to bring during group learnings.