Ethics and Learning Organizations in the New Economy

Ethics and Learning Organizations in the New Economy

Alexis Bañón, Manuel Guillén, Ignacio Gil
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-207-5.ch004
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In order to achieve this, CEOs and Human Resource (HR) policies should potentially contribute to knowledge development by creating authentic learning organizations. The authors propose in this study that learning improvements in organizations are not just a matter of techniques or aptitudes, but also a matter of feelings, attitudes, and, above all, of the moral habits of their members. The authors strongly suggest complementing currently established conceptions of knowledge management and organizational learning through an explicit inclusion of ethics and ethical learning in organizations.
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1. Learning Organizations

For many years, we have been hearing that we live in a “knowledge society” (Toffier, 1990; Bell, 1973; Drucker, 1968). As is widely accepted today, the concept of knowledge is based on two primary elements: information (explicit knowledge) and know-how (tacit knowledge) (Simmonds et al., 2001; Nonaka, 1991).

Information is considered to be the knowledge that can be transmitted without loss of meaning and truth, once the syntactical rules required for interpreting it are known. Thus, knowledge as information implies knowing what something means, and that it can be written down (Grant, 1996; Nonaka, 1994). In this sense, defining knowledge as information whose validity has been established through evidence allows distinguishing it from opinion, speculation, beliefs, or other types of unproven information (Liebeskind, 1996).

On the other hand, know-how, as tacit knowledge, is a much more complex concept than information. It can be defined as the accumulated practical skill or experience through time that allows one to do something efficiently. Therefore it is a personal quality -that involves both cognitive and technical elements- difficult to formalize and to communicate because it is not easy to write down (Grant, 1996; Nonaka, 1994).

Knowledge appears then as the key element to define the learning process (individual and organizational) because it can be understood as the result of transforming information into knowledge (Nonaka, 1994), although other understandings conceive learning as an outcome (Nicolini and Meznar, 1995; Dodgson, 1993).

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