Learning Organizations or Organizations for Learning? How Small Firms can Learn from Planned and Random Technical Problem-Solving: Implications for Technical Education

Learning Organizations or Organizations for Learning? How Small Firms can Learn from Planned and Random Technical Problem-Solving: Implications for Technical Education

Corrado lo Storto (Universitá di Napoli Federico II, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-270-1.ch008
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Abstract

This chapter reports the findings of an empirical study whose purpose is to identify the attributes of the organization infrastructure that support organizational learning in small manufacturing firms through the creation of procedural knowledge. The study is based on the following assumptions: a) organizations are cognitive systems that process information and knowledge; b) knowledge is a by-product of technical problem solving; c) innovation occurs as a stream of random or planned problem solving; d) many attributes of the organization infrastructure that foster innovation also foster knowledge generation during technical problem solving. Findings show that three dimensions of the organization infrastructure have an influence on learning: openness, innovativeness, and leadership. These attributes identify two typologies of organization infrastructures that differently affect the generation of procedural knowledge and learning. In particular, it was found that the organization infrastructure has a moderating effect on the relationship between some context factors (environment diversity, problem complexity, context ambiguity, and uncertainty) and the amount of procedural knowledge generated during technical problem solving. Implications for technical education are also discussed.
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Background

In the last years, the business environment has dramatically changed. This new environment demands that firms perform their operations with greater speed, flexibility, dynamism, and superior quality. Global competition imposes higher, global standards of customer service, creativity, and innovation that even those firms having no global market goals are forced to meet to protect their market share. Knowledge and the capability of firms to learn developing new knowledge are two main strategic issues that hold the highest potentials for gaining efficiencies, and creating value.

The learning organization and organizational learning have emerged as metaphors and models for the adaptation and growth for successful and competitive organizations (Argyris & Schon, 1978; Senge, 1990). Models of organizational learning are developed from models of human learning (Bandura, 1986; Kolb, 1984; Postman, 1976; Schein, 1993). Like the individual learner, organizations draw on experience, interpret and process information transforming it into knowledge, and purposefully use knowledge. Scholars distinguish between personal knowledge that an individual possesses by virtue of education or experience and collective or organizational knowledge, identified as organizational memory or a publicly documented body of knowledge (Nevis, DiBella, & Gould, 1995). As an individual learner does, a learning organization accumulates experience, leveraging on feedback about past decisions to incrementally adjust its reactions to similar problems (Pennings, Barkema, & Douma, 1994). However, an organization by itself cannot develop, learn, grow, or take action independently of its members. Organizations have to capture tacit knowledge of individuals and make it explicit and/or shared in the organizational structure to create and manage organizational knowledge (Lynn, 2000). Moreover, in order to learn, it must apply knowledge. Indeed, organizational learning links cognition to action (Crossen, Lane, & White, 1999). Ideally, learning organizations are communities of learners, all working toward common goals. Some activities characterize learning organizations (Garvin, 1993): systematic problem solving, experimentation with new approaches, incentives for risk taking, steady flow of new ideas, learning from their own experiences and past history, learning from the experiences and best practices of others, transferring knowledge quickly and efficiently throughout the organization. Even though knowledge can also be brought in from the outside, either through market intelligence activities or by hiring people with a particular expertise, the outside knowledge has to be absorbed internally by the firm to be utilized in its operations, and the capability to do that depends on the knowledge resources the firm already holds within its boundaries, primarily knowledge embedded as organizational knowledge in the minds and routinized behaviours of its employees (i.e., its human and structural intellectual capital, see Bontis, Dragonetti, Jacobsen, & Roos, 1999). Human knowledge is created through social interaction between the explicit and the tacit knowledge, and in the organizational knowledge environment (consisting of the numerous interacting and interdependent social, cultural, cognitive, political subsystems that shape the creation, accumulation, flow, and use of knowledge within the organization), the organizational infrastructure is an important part of the overall organizational knowledge ecology, as it influences how people interact within the organization and with the external environment (i.e., the customers, the technology sources, the norms, and standard framework, etc.).

Complete Chapter List

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Dedication
Patricia Ordóñez de Pablos
Table of Contents
Chapter 1
Jakob Lauring, Toke Bjerregaard
This chapter deals with the role of language use and knowledge sharing in the context of international subsidiaries. The chapter analyzes the role... Sample PDF
Knowledge Sharing and Sociality: On the Linguistic Embeddedness of Knowledge Exchange in International Subsidiaries
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Chapter 2
Ruth Alas
This chapter analyzes organizational changes and organizational learning in Estonian companies. During the last decades, Estonia has transformed... Sample PDF
Organizational Learning During Changes in Estonian Organization
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Chapter 3
Giovanni Schiuma
Today’s global business is characterised by interconnectedness, interdependence, and an increasing level of complexity that force organisations to... Sample PDF
Strategies for Assessing Organisational Knowledge Assets
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Chapter 4
Poul Houman Andersen
In order to capture market dividends and stay at par with the competition in the knowledge-based economy, firms must constantly develop their skill... Sample PDF
Division of Interfirm Activities in the Knowledge-Based Economy: The Crucial Role of Knowledge Processors
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Chapter 5
Luiz Antonio Joia, Paulo Sérgio da Silva Sanz
Since the early 1990s, research has been conducted in an attempt to establish a viable and reliable manner of measuring the intangible assets, also... Sample PDF
The Conundrum of Valuing a Company's Intellectual Capital: The Role of Taken-for-Granted Indicators
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Chapter 6
Tongo Constantine Imafidon
This chapter avers that over the past years, monolithic organizations, as opposed to multicultural organizations, have been created by many top... Sample PDF
The Multicultural Organization: A Historic Organizational Theory for Gaining Competitiveness in Global Business Environment
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Chapter 7
Arla Juntunen
This chapter focuses on the challenges of developing a knowledge management platform to support organizational memory and knowledge transfer. The... Sample PDF
Developing a Corporate Memory as a Competitive Advantage in the ICT-Sector
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Chapter 8
Corrado lo Storto
This chapter reports the findings of an empirical study whose purpose is to identify the attributes of the organization infrastructure that support... Sample PDF
Learning Organizations or Organizations for Learning? How Small Firms can Learn from Planned and Random Technical Problem-Solving: Implications for Technical Education
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Chapter 9
Ernesto Villalba
The present study explores the relationship between the knowledge-enabling environment and the demand of training in 18 small private companies... Sample PDF
Learning at the Core: Knowledge Management as an Employer Strategy for Lifelong Learning
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Chapter 10
Dimitris Bibikas, Iraklis Paraskakis, Alexandros G. Psychogios, Ana C. Vasconcelos
The increasing pressure of today’s highly globalised markets has lead organisations to continuously compete for knowledge and innovation. Despite... Sample PDF
An Integrated Knowledge Innovation Process Management Model: The Case of Skandia
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Chapter 11
Christian Nielsen, Robin Roslender, Per Nikolaj Bukh
During the last decade, many calls for improving disclosure practices, in relation to intellectual capital and intangibles, have been uttered in the... Sample PDF
Intellectual Capital Reporting: Can a Strategy Perspective Solve Accounting Problems?
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Chapter 12
Huei-Chen Hsu
The main points of this chapter are probing for the combination of information technology and virtual work, and how to change the distribution of... Sample PDF
Managing the Information Technology: Knowledge Transfer in Virtual Teams
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Chapter 13
Miltiadis D. Lytras, Patricia Ordóñez de Pablos
Multinational companies (MNCs) are facing important challenges within the current economic context. Rapid technological changes, the globalization... Sample PDF
The Building of the Intellectual Capital Statement in Multinationals: Challenges for the Future
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Chapter 14
Pedro López Sáez, José Emilio Navas López, Gregorio Martín de Castro
During more than a decade, the literature has provided several intellectual capital models. Nevertheless, empirical evidence is still necessary in... Sample PDF
Intellectual Capital in Knowledge-Intensive Firms: Exploring the Concept and Main Components in Boston's Route 128
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Chapter 15
Weiling Ke, Kwok Kee Wei
This chapter uses organizational learning as a lens to study how firms implement the enterprise system. The core research questions are: What are... Sample PDF
Organizations and Learning Process: Its Antecedents and Consequences in Enterprise System Implementation
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Chapter 16
Kholekile L. Gwebu, Jing Wang
Improvements in technology have led to innovations in training such as Electronic Learning (E-learning). E-learning aims to help organizations in... Sample PDF
The Role of Organizational Environmental, and Human Factors in E-Learning Diffusion
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Chapter 17
Mikel Sorli, Dragan Stokic
Managing of knowledge for innovation in an extended enterprise (EE) environment is a key issue. This in turn requires effective utilization of... Sample PDF
Supporting Innovation Through Knowledge Management in the Extended Enterprise
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Chapter 18
Luis Felipe Luna-Reyes
Contemporary organizations face the challenge of growing and advancing in a complex and changing environment (Johannessen, Olaisen, & Olsen, 2001;... Sample PDF
Government Innovation Through Knowledge Management
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Chapter 19
Marc Henselewski, Stefan Smolnik, Gerold Riempp
Today’s business environment is characterized by highly transparent markets and global competition. Technology life cycles are decreasing due to the... Sample PDF
A Technology-Focused Framework for Integrating Knowledge Management into Strategic Innovation Management
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