Organizational Learning

Strategically support your greatest assets: your people and what they know

Organizational Learning

Many Knowledge Management processes are difficult to implement because what we euphemistically call "the resources" are people, and as Alavi and Leidner note, people are difficult to imitate and are socially complex (2001). Particularly when it is related to their careers and livelihood, and in a tight economy as we have seen from 2008-2012, people may not share knowledge freely even within their business teams.

Knowledge hoarding is the undesired consequence of a culture that values individual knowledge and expertise and appears to not value an open exchange of ideas. Hoarding can also occur when incentives in the organization rewards individuals for solving problems rather than teams, or measures individual expertise rather how much expertise is shared throughout the organization. Managers at BP share with Harvard Business Review authors Hansen and von Oetinger (2001) their T-shaped performance culture. Groups are measured on their team performance AND how other teams improved their performance using solutions they had developed. Groups were rewarded for replicating the successes of others, not for reinventing the wheel. Enter Organizational Learning.

Social Aspects of Organizational Learning

The primary differences between Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning is the social aspect of Organizational Learning. What is most noticeable about the processes listed for this discipline is the heavy emphasis on social interaction. The rationale for my distinguishing between Knowledge Management and Organizational Learning is the social aspect. I have observed that the champions for initiatives in Organizational Learning need competency in facilitating social knowledge transfer situations. This competency isn't as critical for managing the Knowledge Management processes listed on the Knowledge Management page. If an enterprise is large enough to have several people working in this area, consider organizing around having competencies that support both disciplines, it is important to have an individual competent in the soft skills to champion the Organizational Learning processes. It is also my observation that is can be rare to have individuals with the skills and fortitude to manage both the enterprise Knowledge Management processes and the enterprise Organizational Learning processes. If your enterprise is beginning its journey and relying on one person, consider looking for both technical and social skills in a person that will manage a successful program.