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 16: The learning organization: opportunities and challenges for small and medium-sized enterprises in developing countries

Dima Jamali, Yusuf Sidani and Charissa Lloyd


In recent years, firms have been forced to adapt to a myriad of external and internal pressures such as the advent of international trade, intensifying competition, an increased appreciation of knowledge as an important firm asset, as well as changing standards, expectations and aspirations of employees and management alike. As a result, there is a sharper business focus on value creation, responsiveness, innovation and quality. There is a growing realization in this new environment that adherence to former business strategies could very possibly result in failure. Instead organizations need to promote continual modification and adaptation at all levels (Dowd 1999; Gardiner & Whiting 1997). Emerging research on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in developing countries has shown the benefits of training and learning for individual employees as well as the organization as a whole, and the need for specific systems to foster, document and reward learning at all levels. A daunting challenge for SMEs in developing countries is to seek continual improvement and adaptation through embracing the core principles of the learning organization; it is therefore essential in this context to understand the facilitators and obstacles of developing a learning organization idea in an SME, along with specific action steps to achieve this goal.

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