Assessment 1 Study Notes: Wikipedia Definition
A learning organization is the term given to a company that facilitates the learning of its members and continuously transforms itself. Learning organizations develop as a result of the pressures facing modern organizations and enables them to remain competitive in the business environment. A learning organization has five main features; systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, shared vision and team learning. The Learning organization concept was coined through the work and research of Peter Senge and his colleagues  . It encourages organizations to shift to a more interconnected way of thinking. Organizations should become more like communities that employees can feel a commitment to. They will work harder for an organization they are committed to.
Organizations do organically develop into learning organizations; there are factors prompting their change. As organizations grow, they lose their capacity to learn as company structures and individual thinking becomes rigid. When problems arise, the proposed solutions often turn out to be only short term (single loop learning) and re-emerge in the future. To remain competitive, many organizations have restructured, with fewer people in the company. This means those who remain need to work more effectively. To create a competitive advantage, companies need to learn faster than their competitors and to develop a customer responsive culture. Argyris identified that organizations need to maintain knowledge about new products and processes, understand what is happening in the outside environment and produce creative solutions using the knowledge and skills of all within the organization. This requires co-operation between individuals and groups, free and reliable communication, and a culture of trust.
There is a multitude of definitions of a learning organization as well as their typologies. According to Peter Senge, a learning organization exhibits five main characteristics: systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, a shared vision, and team learning.
Systems thinking. The idea of the learning organization developed from a body of work called systems thinking. This is a conceptual framework that allows people to study businesses as bounded objects. Learning organizations use this method of thinking when assessing their company and have information systems that measure the performance of the organization as a whole and of its various components. Systems thinking states that all the characteristics must be apparent at once in an organization for it to be a learning organization. If some of these characteristics are missing then the organization will fall short of its goal. However O’Keeffe believes that the characteristics of a learning organization are factors that are gradually acquired, rather than developed simultaneously.
Personal mastery. The commitment by an individual to the process of learning is known as personal mastery. There is a competitive advantage for an organization whose workforce can learn more quickly than the workforce of other organizations. Individual learning is acquired through staff training, development and continuous self-improvement, however learning cannot be forced upon an individual who is not receptive to learning. Research shows that most learning in the workplace is incidental, rather than the product of formal training, therefore it is important to develop a culture where personal mastery is practiced in daily life. A learning organization has been described as the sum of individual learning, but there must be mechanisms for individual learning to be transferred into organizational learning.
Mental models. The assumptions held by individuals and organizations are called mental models. To become a learning organization, these models must be