Handbook of Research on the Learning Organization
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Handbook of Research on the Learning Organization

Adaptation and Context

Edited by Anders Örtenblad

This timely Handbook establishes the ‘contextualization’ of the learning organization idea as a research field. In contrast to much of the previous literature, which has approached the learning organization as a panacea that every organization could and should adopt, this major new Handbook puts the learning organization into context. It examines the relevance of the learning organization idea to organizations in various specific contexts, employing examples from a wide variety of cultures including China and Islamic nations, and from industries as diverse as the police force, care services for the elderly and family firms.
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Chapter 2: What do we mean by ‘learning organization’?

Anders Örtenblad


The concept of the learning organization gained an increased interest as the book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, authored by the American scholar Peter Senge, was published in 1990. Although the term ‘learning organization’ had occurred in book titles several years earlier (e.g. Garratt 1987), Senge is often considered to be the learning organization guru (see e.g. Jackson 2001), and some even speak of the learning organization as if it was his idea (e.g. Carson et al. 1999). The literature on the learning organization, with a few exceptions that so far seem to have received limited impact (e.g. Ng 2009), has not been able to take the concept or the field much further from how the idea was initially defined and presented. Accordingly, the literature on the relevance of the learning organization idea to organizations in various contexts continues to use old, well-known frameworks, such as Senge’s five disciplines from 1990 (e.g. Bak 2012; Bui & Baruch 2012; Elkin et al. 2011), Watkinsand Marsick’s Dimensions of the Learning Organization Questionnaire(DLOQ) from the mid-1990s1 (e.g. Abu-Tineh2011; Ali 2012; Dirani 2009;Jamali et al. 2009; Wang & Yang 2007), Pedler, Burgoyne and Boydell’s learning company characteristics from 1991 (e.g. Díez et al. 2005) and Garvin’s perspective of the learning organization from 1993 (e.g. Bauman2005).

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