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Organizational learning

Organizational learning is an area of knowledge within organizational theory that studies models and theories about the way an organization learns and adapts. In Organizational development (OD), learning is a characteristic of an adaptive organization, i.e., an organization that is able to sense changes in signals from its environment (both internal and external) and adapt accordingly. (see adaptive system). OD specialists endeavor to assist their clients to learn from experience and incorporate the learning as feedback into the planning process. Learning theories The accelerating pace of changes in operational environments of business organizations has created increasing need to find adequate ways to adapt with continuously changing situations. Ability to learn is seen as a major source to stay competitive in changing environment. Stata (1996) argues that the rate at which individuals and organizations learn may become the only sustainable competitive advantage, especially in knowledge-intensive industries. Garvin (1993) points out that in the absence of learning, companies and individuals simply repeat old practices. So the increasing need for learning has raised the interest toward the learning theories. Learning (Columbia Encyclopaedia 2003) in psychology is the process by which a relatively lasting change in potential behavior occurs as a result of practice or experience. Starkey (1996) defines learning as the creation of useful meaning, individual or shared. Learning generates knowledge which serves to reduce uncertainty. Beach (1980) describes learning as "the human process by which skills, knowledge, habit and attitudes are acquired and altered in such a way that behavior is modified". Schuck (1996) defines learning as a social experience, built upon interaction and dialogue with significant others in a context where people are willing to share their ideas with others. She considers traditional training methods to be limiting since they only teach what to think but the best solutions often occur when different points of view are integrated into the dialogue. Therefore she shares the idea that people must learn how to learn. BEHAVIORALIST LEARNING THEORY Behaviorism, as a learning theory, can be traced back to Aristotle, whose essay Memory focused on association being made between events such as lightning

and thunder. Other philosophers that followed Aristotles thoughts are Hobbs (1650), Hume (1740), Brown (1820), Bain (1855) and Ebbinghause (1885) (Black, 1995). Pavlov, Watson, Thorndike and Skinner later developed the theory in more detail. Watson is the theorist credited with coining the term "behaviorism."

Behaviorism as a learning theory

The school of adult learning theory that adopted these principles has become known as the school of behaviorism, which saw learning as a straightforward process of response to stimuli. The provision of a reward or reinforcement is believed to strengthen the response and therefore result in changes in behavior the test, according to this school of thought, is as to whether learning had occurred. Spillane (2002) states, the behaviorist perspective, associated with B. F. Skinner, holds that the mind at work cannot be observed, tested, or understood; thus, behaviorists are concerned with actions (behavior) as the sites of knowing, teaching, and learning (p. 380). One of the keys to effective teaching is discovering the best consequence to shape the behavior. Consequences can be positive or negative punishing or rewarding. Extinction occurs when there is no consequence at all for example if you knock at the door and no one answers, pretty soon you simply stop knocking (Zemke, 2002). The seminal work of Pavlov demonstrated that the application of neutral stimuli could be used to elicit a response from animals. From these initial studies other psychologists such as John Watson and BF Skinner demonstrated that these principles could be applied to humans with the addition of a reinforcement element (Cheetham & Chivers, 2001). They demonstrated that responses related to more complex behavior could be achieved, which they termed operant responses. One of the assumptions of many behaviorists is that free will is illusory, and that all behavior is determined by a combination of forces. These forces comprise genetic factors as well as the environment either through association or reinforcement. This theory has latterly been criticized as overly simplistic. Nevertheless, its influence can be seen in educators insistence that feedback is critical to learning. The stimulus-response method is used frequently in adult learning situations in which the students must learn a time sensitive response to a stimulus. Aircraft emergency procedures, for example, are divided into two parts. The first, the time sensitive portion, must be immediately performed by rote memory upon recognition of a stimulus a warning light, horn, buzzer, bell, or the like. These procedures are taught and reinforced with rote drills and successfully passing the tests is the reinforcement. The second portion of the procedure, which may be viewed as

diagnostic action is performed with mandatory reference to checklists and other reference material and depends on what may be viewed as higher level learning and understanding of aircraft systems and performance characteristics. The hypothesis behind behavioralist learning theories is that all learning occurs when behavior is influenced and changed by external factors (Merriam & Caffarella, 1999). Behavioralism disregards any notion that there may be an internal component to mans learning. Grippin and Peters (1984) emphasize that contiguityand reinforcement are central to explaining the learning process (Merriam & Caffarella, 1999, p. 251) in regard to an individuals subjugation to external stimulus as a determinant of response (i.e., behavior). Contiguity is understood as the timing of events that is necessary to bring about behavioral change, while reinforcement refers to the probability that repeated positive or negative events will produce an anticipated change in behavior (Merriam & Caffarella, 1999).

Cognitive Theory of Learning:

Cognitive theory is a learning theory of psychology that attempts to explain human behavior by understanding the thought processes. The assumption is that humans are logical beings that make the choices that make the most sense to them. Information processing is a commonly used description of the mental process, comparing the human mind to a computer. Pure cognitive theory largely rejects behaviorism on the basis that behaviorism reduces complex human behavior to simple cause and effect. However, the trend in past decades has been towards merging the two into a comprehensive cognitive-behavioral theory. This allows therapists to use techniques from both schools of thought to help clients achieve their goals. Social cognitive theory is a subset of cognitive theory. Primarily focused on the ways in which we learn to model the behavior of others, social cognitive theory can be seen in advertising campaigns and peer pressure situations. It is also useful in the treatment of psychological disorders including phobias.

Social Learning theory:Social learning theory focuses on the learning that occurs within a social context. It considers that people learn from one another, including such concepts as observational learning, imitation, and modeling. Among others Albert Bandura is considered the leading proponent of this theory.

General principles of social learning theory follows:

1. People can learn by observing the behavior is of others and the outcomes of those behaviors. 2. Learning can occur without a change in behavior. Behaviorists say that learning has to be represented by a permanent change in behavior, in contrast social learning theorists say that because people can learn through observation alone, their learning may not necessarily be shown in their performance. Learning may or may not result in a behavior change. 3. Cognition plays a role in learning. Over the last 30 years social learning theory has become increasingly cognitive in its interpretation of human learning. Awareness and expectations of future reinforcements or punishments can have a major effect on the behaviors that people exhibit. 4. Social learning theory can be considered a bridge or a transition between behaviorist learning theories and cognitive learning theories.


Submitted To: - Prof Fazli

Submitted By:- Faizan Mushtaq Subject:- Organizational Change Class:- MBA 2sem Roll No:- 43.