Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS


Ways of Organisational Learning in the Chemical Industry and their Impact on Vocational Education and Training - ORGLEARN

Project ID: HPSE-CT-1999-00041


Terms like the "learning company" or "learning organisation" have recently become popular terms used to describe a new quality of learning within companies. However, when one tries to explore this new quality of learning to some depth, one is immediately confronted with a score of books and articles that begin with a somewhat mysterious definition of "organisational learning" or the "learning company". As Probst and Büchel (1998: 19) explain,
Learning by organisations is not the same as the sum of individual learning and behaviour. On the one hand, there are pieces of individual knowledge, which are neither known nor accessible to organisations. On the other hand, organisations are able to retain pieces of knowledge in their cognitive systems that are no longer part of any individual�s pool of knowledge. Consequently, organisations can have more as well as less knowledge as the sum of individuals within the organisation. But while it may seem understandable that the knowledge of an organisation can be poorer than the total knowledge of the individuals who constitute the organisation, the contrary is more difficult to comprehend.
This definition, like many others (e.g. Senge, 1997: 171; Sonntag, 1996: 67) considers individual learning processes as a precondition for organizational learning. It also emphasises that organisational learning is different from and should be regarded as more than the sum of individual learning processes. But to Vocational Education and Training (VET) specialist, Karlheinz Geißler from Munich, this is nonsense. He criticises the current discussion on the "learning company" or the "learning organisation" for disconnecting the concept of learning from the learning individual and creating a semantics debate (Geißler & Orthey 1996). So the question becomes one of understanding what companies actually do if they claim to be a learning company.

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