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Handbook of Organizational Learning and Knowledge Management, Second Edition by MARJORIE A. LYLES, MARK EASTERBY-SMITH

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Images of Organizations and Learning

Organizations as learning portfolios

Howard Gardner (1993) and Daniel Goleman (1995) have shown that understanding the learning capability of individuals requires more than just testing for IQ. Learning and intelligence are multi-dimensional concepts that cannot be determined with a single measure. Reliance on single measures simplifies reality but, more critically, devalues ways of learning and forms of intelligence that deviate from social norms.

Much as individuals learn in different ways (Kolb, 1979), so too is the case with organizations. To some extent these differences are a function of the diverse environments in which organizations must operate. For example, in stable environments with established products like ketchup or cement, what and how organizations learn will be very different from what occurs in industries that are volatile and involve new products or evolving technologies, such as computer hardware and software. Learning differences between organizations also occur as a result of differences in history, culture, size, and age. New, entrepreneurial firms are apt to learn differently from larger, established firms. This creates opportunities for firms, like Apple’s chance in the 1970s and 1980s to take market share away from IBM. However, more critically the social complexity of organizations supports multiple cultural realities or segments (Van Maanen and Barley, 1985), and how learning occurs in one segment will differ from ...

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