David Knights and Hugh Willmott (2012), in their book 'Introducing Organizational Behavior & Management', 2nd Edition, discussed several organisational learning models.

1. Kolb's (1984) model: Experiential learning cycle

Most of us woud agree that we learn a lot through experience, but the experiences leading to learning depends on how we think about the experience. Kolb's model presents learning as an active (cognitive and experiential) process of perception and mental processing.

Kolb's 1984 model.jpg

2. Nonaka and Takeuchi's (1995) model: Learning as knowledge transformation

This integrative approach to learning emphasizes facilitating processes. Using the tacit-explicit distinction, Nonaka and Takeuchi (1995) describe complex, independent, simultaneous or sequential processes through which knowledge is changed (see the figure below).
  • First, tacit-tacit knowledge transfer (‘socialization’) refers to the traditional ‘master-apprentice’ relationship where skills are learned through observation, imitation and practice.
  • Second, tacit-to-explicit transfer (‘externalization’) – the aim of much KM refers to attempts to unlock or capture knowledge through words, pictures or metaphors/analogies for example. It is, by definition, often impossible and always partial (e.g., writing golf coaching books).
  • Third, the opposite transfer of explicit to tacit knowledge (‘internalization’) relates to the application of representations of knowledge (e.g., manuals, diagrams and models) to develop abilities and understanding through practice and reflection.
  • Finally, ‘combination’ is the use of existing explicit knowledge/s to create a ‘bigger picture’ such as is the case in formal learning situations like writing an essay and combining models". Below is the Knowledge Spiral as described by Nonaka & Takeuchi.


3. Abrahamson's (1991) model: Fads and fashions

Abrahamson (1991) is interested in helping managers make more rational decisions when adopting new management ideas. He recognizes that assumptions of rational management free choice and clear organizational goals and criteria for assessing efficiency are rarely appropriate or evident, especially in conditions of high uncertainty (cf. Simon, 1960). Rather, he shows how adoption of ideas can be ‘forced’ (e.g., government bodies requiring use of safety or quality protocols) or subject to the influence of ‘fashion’ (e.g., from consultants/gurus, media and business schools). Also, this can lead to copying others such as ‘in-group’ or peer companies. He calls this the ‘fad’ perspective, although most writers do not distinguish between fads and fashions."

4. The 4I Model (Crossan et al., 1999): A comprehensive model of organisational learning

In 1999, Crossan, Lane and White presented a model of organizational learning called “The 4I framework” which identifies four main processes (intuiting, interpreting, integrating and institutionalizing) through which learning occurs across the three organisational levels (individual, group, organization). The 4I framework is depicted in Figure (1) below.

Intuiting occurs when individuals recognize patterns in their own past or present experiences and identify their potential use in their current work environment. In many ways, this process is seen as a reconscious process.

Interpreting is the process through which individuals verbalize or put into action their own insights and ideas. Language and metaphors are often used to help individuals interpret and share their intuitions with others. As the interpretation process moves beyond the individual and the ideas become embraced by the group, integration occurs.

Integrating is the collective development of a shared understanding of new ideas and of how to put them into action. When new ways of thinking and acting are recurrent and have a sufficiently significant impact on organizational action, the changes become institutionalized.

Institutionalisation is the process of embedding learning that has occurred by individuals and groups into the institutions of the organistion including systems, structures, procedures, and strategy. Crossan, Lane and White (1999) also explained that institutionalising is the process of ensuring that routinized actions occur, which implies that there is a deliberate effort to embed knowledge at the organisational level so that it may persist and be repeated in the future with sufficient regularity so that it can be recognised as an institution of the organisation. Institutionalisation is the process that distinguishes organisational learning from individual and group learning as it is through this process that ideas are transformed into institutions of the organisation, which are available to all employees.

4I model.PNG

Knights D., Willmott, H. (2012), Introducing Organizational Behaviour & Management, 2nd Edition. UK: Cengage Learning, [Online]. Available at: http://moodle.brookes.ac.uk (Accessed 11/1/2013).
Crossan M., et al., (1999), An Organizational Learning Framework: From Intuition to Institution, The Academy of Management Review, Vol. 24, No. 3 (Jul., 1999), pp. 522-537