Re: Organizational thinking LO3863

Duncan Sutherland (
Sun, 26 Nov 1995 13:37:20 -0500

Replying to LO3826 --

>But organizations are groups of people. Moreover groups of people respond
>to conditions in consistent ways as a result of training or repeated
>stimuli. That is they 'learn' a response. Whenever you see a group of
>fire fighters move into a burning house you see a group learned response.
>Is it so far fetched to attribute to groups of people the ability to

However, at the end of the day, William, I suspect even you will agree
that it is still the _individual_ firefighters who have learned a set of
_individual_ skills related to working as a group to put out fires--as
opposed to working as an individual who might just grab the nearest garden
hose. Put in a slightly different way, the _individual_ firefighter (to
continue with your example) learns a set of skills that, when applied in
concert with other members of the fire department, results in the behavior
you describe as a 'group learned response'. Clearly, groups 'behave'.
However, why is it not sufficient to simply say that _individuals_ learn
and that this learning manifests itself both as individual actions
(although I am sure that some will argue that there are no such things as
'individual' actions!) and as coordinated (i.e., group) actions such as
the excellent example you cite? I get the sense that many participants in
_this_ group feel that, if organizations don't learn, than the very notion
of organizational learning becomes seomething of an oxymoron.

Duncan Sutherland