In their 2002 paper A Review Concept of Organizational Learning Wang and Ahmed mentioned that the concepts of organisational learning and learning organisation did not emerge until the 1980s, but their scientific background and principles can be traced back

double_loop.jpginto many perspectives of management (Garratt, 1999).
The idea of organisational learning is accredited to the creation of the ‘action learning’ process (Revans, 1982), which uses small groups, rigorous collection of statistical data, and the tapping of the group’s positive emotional energies (Garratt, 1999). This technique is also reflected in Deming and Juran’s quality control system quality circles, SPC (statistical process control) and PDSA (plan-do-study-action). using A few works contributed positively to open up the debate of organisational learning and subsequently the popularity of the concept. These include Argyris and Schon’s (1978) double-loop learning notion, Senge’s (1990) the ‘Fifth Discipline’ and Pedler, Burgoyne & Boydell (1991) learning company model.

Learning starts with individuals while a learning organisation is founded on the learning of individuals in the organisation. Individual learning, however, does not necessarily lead to organisation learning. It is the task of the learning organisation to integrate individual learning into organisational learning. The concept and practices of organisational learning is significantly impacted by the individual learning process and theories, of which Behavioral Theory, Cognitive Theory, Social Cognitive Theory, and Gestalt Theory are most widely recognised and purported to a wide range of learning modes summarised in the table below:

individual learning models.PNG

Though individual learning is important to organisations, organisational learning is not simply the sum of each member's learning. Organisations, unlike individuals, develop and maintain learning systems that not only influence their immediate members, but are then transmitted to others by way of organisation hierarchy histories and norms.

Chris Argyris and Donald Schön (1976),(“ described individuals learning in organisational contexts, that “organisational learning must concern itself not with static entities called organisations, but with an active process of organising which is, at root, a cognitive enterprise. Individual members are continually engaged in attempting to know the organisation, and to know themselves in the context of the organisation.”

Argyris was also the first to introduce
the Ladder of Inference (Peter Senge made extensive use of this concept in the The Fifth Discipline). This is a model of how people process information and assign meaning. In other words: ‘how we make sense’.

"Culture and Organisational Learning” by S. D. Noam Cook and Dvora Yanow (1990), a well cited and recognized paper, on the other side, authors argued with a flute workshops case study, that “(a) One aspect of human capacity to act is the ability to act in groups; (b) that a group of people with a history of joint action or practice is meaningfully understood as a culture; (c) that a culture is constituted, at least in part, from the inter-subjective meanings that its
org.jpgmembers express in their common practice through objectives, language, and acts; (d) that such meaning-bearing objects, language, and acts are cultural artifacts through which an organisations are constantly involved in activities of modifying or maintaining those meanings and their embodiment; (e) finally, such activities constitute organisational learning.”/),

Crossan et al (1999) in their "Decade Award" article "AN ORGANIZATIONAL LEARNING FRAMEWORK: FROM INTUITION TO INSTITUTION", outlined organisational learning " (1) involves a tension between assimilating new learning (exploration) and using what has been learned exploitation);(2)it is multilevel: individual,group, and organization;(3) The three levels are linked by social and psychological processes — intuiting, interpreting, integrating, and institutionalising. (4) Cognition affects action, and vice versa."

Definitions of Organisational Learning
The literature on organisational learning has grown exponentially in recent years (Bontis et al., 2002; Dodgson, 1993; Fiol and Lyles, 1985; Huber, 1991; Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995; Senge, 1990; Slater and Narver, 1995). There have been multiple ways to define organisational learning.
Daniel Jiménez-Jiménez and Raquel Sanz-Valle (2011) mentioned that Organisational learning is the process by which the firm develops new knowledge and insights from the common experiences of people in the organisation, and has the potential to influence behaviors and improve the firm's capabilities (Fiol and Lyles, 1985; Huber, 1991; Senge, 1990; Slater and Narver, 1995). Following Huber (1991), this process comprises four subprocesses (Baker and Sinkula, 1999; Sinkula, 1994; Slater and Narver, 1995; Weerd-Nederhof et al., 2002).

  • Knowledge acquisition is the process the company uses for obtaining new information and knowledge.
  • Knowledge distribution is the process by which employees share information within the firm.
  • Knowledge interpretation happens when individuals give meaning and transform information into new common knowledge
  • Organisational memory is the process of storing the information and knowledge for future use.

Kane and Alavi (2007) articulated that Organisational learning is the dynamic process of creating new knowledge and transferring it to where it is needed and used, resulting in the creation of new knowledge for later transfer and use. Knowledge creation, transfer, and retention can be largely regarded as social processes involving communication, interaction, collaboration, and discourse among organizational members. Organisational learning is related to the concept of knowledge management, which is also primarily concerned with the organization’s ability to create and transfer knowledge. Kane and Alavi (2007) considered two forms of OL: exploration and exploitation.
  • Exploration involves the development of new knowledge or replacing existing content within the organization’s memory.
  • Exploitation refers to incremental learning focused on diffusion, refinement, and reuse of existing knowledge.

Different Levels of Organisational Learning
Single-loop learning involves adaptive responses: measuring an organisation’s performance, comparing it with its stated goals and taking corrective action to close the gap. Through single loop learning organisational actors detect deviations from their theory-in-use in response to a changing environment and take corrective action. Single-loop learning contributes to an organisation’s knowledge and competency base without, however, altering its goals, strategies or mental maps. For example, single-loop learning comprises adjusting a production process to ensure that the product meets quality standards.

Double-loop learning involves evaluating and changing organisational goals, organisational strategies and mental maps. Double-loop learning is typically initiated when established mental maps and ways of understanding the business become inadequate. For example, when a product’s market-share drops significantly, a company is forced to rethink its understanding of market needs and competitors’ advantages and develop new mental maps that enable the company to change its marketing strategy.

Triple-loop or deutero learning occurs in response to a realization that existing mental models and ways of organizational learning no longer suffice. Snell & Chak (1998) state that the essence of triple-loop learning consists of inventing new processes, methods or strategies for reframing and generating new mental maps. Such reframing takes the form of rigorous questioning, self-critique and critical reflection on double- and single-loop learning processes themselves.


From Individual to team learning:... Roland Yeo

Focus of Organisational Learning
Wang and Ahmed (2002) listed prevailing concept of organisational learning development:

Coming to year 2000, the past debate of whether organisational learning was simply the sum of individual learning or whether it was in the context of culture as a whole, the system, structure and process, has silent, because “there appears to be a broad acceptance of various levels of analysis“ of theory, the new debate shifted to “nature and location of organisational learning; how to investigate it; territorial disputes between competing concepts.” (Easterby-Smith et al, 2000).

In additional , there has been growth in research on knowledge and knowledge management connection to organisational learning, that in 2004 Mark Easterby-Smith brought these two conferences together, it is now called OLKC (Organisational Learning, Knowledge, and Capabilities). Also, the other development towards for the issue of power, politics and trust relating to theorganisational learning, has been given serious consideration by many authors.

However, as stated by Crossan et al (2011) in their citation review of research for the 2000s, although there were many organisational learning applied research to phenomena in specific areas, developing an accepted organizational learning theory remains unrealized. They concluded, that developing a theory of organizational learning drawing on insights from evolutionary and multilevel theory may be a step in that direction.


Cook N., Yanow D. (2011). culture and organization learning, Journal of Management Inquiry. Dec 2011, Vol. 20 Issue 4, p362-379. 18p. DOI: 10.1177/1056492611432809.

Crossan, M., et al., (2011), Reflections on the 2009 AMR decade Award: Do We have a Theory of Organizational Learning?, Academy of Management Review, Vol. 36 Issue 3, p446-460.

Crossan, M., et al., (1999), AN ORGANIZATIONAL LEARNING FRAMEWORK: FROM INTUITION TO INSTITUTION, Academy of Management Review, Vol. 24 Issue 3

Easterby-Smith, M. et al., (2000), ORGANIZATIONAL LEARNING: DEBATES PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE, Journal of Management Studies. Sep2000, Vol. 37 Issue 6, p783-796. 14p.

Wang, Catherine L. & Ahmed, Pervaiz K. (2002), A Review of the Concept of Organizational Learning, University of Wolverhampton

Jimenez-Jimenez, Danie & Sanz-Valle, Raquel (2011), Innovation, organizational learning, and performance, Journal of Business Research, Volume 64, Issue 4, April 2011, pp. 408-417

Kane, Gerald C., Alavi, Maryam (2007), Information Technology and Organizational Learning: An Investigation of Exploration and Exploitation Processes, Organization Science, September - October 2007, Vol. 18, Issue 5, pp. 796-812.