Adaptation and Context
Edited by Anders Örtenblad
Chapter 16: The learning organization: opportunities and challenges for small and medium-sized enterprises in developing countries
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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