Re: LO as Hype/Fad? LO2784

Iris Berdrow (
Wed, 13 Sep 1995 09:41:05 -0400 (EDT)

Replying to LO2759 --

Thanks to Duncan and Barry for acknowledging a thought that is in my mind
constantly as I read about OL or LO perspectives. We are not talking
about a new kind of religion here, but some seem to feel more comfortable
putting it in those abstract terms. I believe that in order to do justice
and give legitimacy to the work being done in this area we have to be
specific (and honest) about the phenomenon of interest.

Learning has been happening since the cavemen learned how to light fires.
Group learning has been happening since a group of cavemen learned how to
improve on the technique and then kept it from other groups who had not
yet learned on their own.

Organizations are very sophisticated groups with systems and structures
which routinize what they have learned and ensure consistency. These
systems and structures, while reducing the need to keep "relearning", also
inhibit the reassessment of those previous lessons.

I believe the current (if you call the last 25 years current) work on
organizational learning is an attempt to deal with the paradox of having
flexible routines.

In my own work, if I may use it as an example, I have chosen a very
specific area of interest - Knowledge management in the context of
international alliances. The question being, does it enhance performance
if companies explicitly manage the process by which knowledge is
transferred, developed and harvested in joint activities with foreign
partners. In order to do this work I have to be specific about what type
of knowledge is important for this activity, where it resides and how it
travels, how I can trace its development and how I measure performance.

The point being, this is not a great "ah ha" of new activities. It is the
collection of processes that we already understand, mixed together in a
different formula and put into a new, relevant context. If we would all
keep in mind what it is that we are specifically looking at we would do a
greater service to the business community who does not need another fad to
hide behind.

I apologize if I sound a bit defensive, but many times I have had to
justify what I think is a legitimate and important piece of work to people
who only hear about the "religion" of OL and don't know what to do with
it. I would be happy to hear supporting or opposing views.


Iris Tiemessen :::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::: Doctoral Candidate : Western Business School : : University of Western Ontario : : London, Canada N6A 3K7 : : (519) 679-2111 Ext. 5197 : : Fax: (519) 661-3959 : : IBERDROW@SMS.BUSINESS.UWO.CA : ::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::