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Cognitive and Cultural Theories of Organizational Learning Essay

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Updated: Aug 20th, 2019

Introduction

In order to survive in this era of globalization, various organizations are re-examining their management systems in order to attain competitive capacities to survive and remain relevant in their areas of operations. Organization Learning since its inception at the beginning of 1990s has received overwhelming attention as managers realize that they need to promote organizational change that is more suitable for the ever changing business environment that has become turbulent and complex (Cook & Yanow 1993).

Garvin, Edmondson, and Gino (2008) argue that it is vital that companies should become learning organizations due the tougher competition, and shifting customer preferences.

Globalization and competitive pressures (Cook & Yanow 1993) have compelled many organizations to promote learning at all levels; individual, team and organizational. According to Assmann (1995) interactions in organizations takes place between members and the physical surrounding as well.

Differences between Cognitive and Cultural theories of Organizational Learning

The argument in cultural perspective is based on the premise that organization learning is done by key individuals in the organization whose actions then influence the organisational change. On the hand, cultural perspective is based on the foundation that organizations learn because they have the capabilities just like those those human posses that allow them to learn.

Therefore, cognitive perspective to organizational learning is viewed by Cook and Yanow (2005) as a compliment to the cultural perspective. They argue that the cognitive perspective treats organizational learning unequivocally as learning at the individual level while the cultural perspective on the other hand focuses on learning on a collective level, that is, the whole organization. Furthermore, cultural perspective is closely linked to those epistemological approaches that support collective learning.

Shortcomings of the theories

According to Cook and Yanow (2005), the basic problem that arises from the application of the cognitive theory is the fact that it is not possible to see cognition occurring in the organization.

The Cognitive perspective of Organizational Learning is based on the assumption that “all deliberate actions had a cognitive basis, that it reflected the norms, strategies and assumptions as models of the world which had claims to general validity and that human action and learning could be placed in the larger context of knowing” (Argyris & Schon 1996, p.10).

Consequently, people assume that cognition has been attained when they notice changes in the organization’s pattern of activities that result from actions of organization’s key individuals (Cook & Yanow 2005). From cultural perspectives Organizational Learning is not possible unless some learning first takes place in the executive subculture.

Alternative approaches

The approaches offered by the authors are to split the cognitive perspective into two approaches. The first approach that treats organizational learning as learning that focuses on the individual learning in organization context while the second approach uses individual learning as a model for understanding some types of group organizational activities (Cook & Yanow 2005).

Conclusion

In summary, the paper looked at the two perspectives of organizational learning: cognitive perspective, and cultural perspective. In addition to the key differences in these perspectives, the paper also examined the major shortcomings of these approaches to organizational learning.

And by focusing on the shortcomings of these two perspectives the paper describes the possible alternative approaches for studying organizational learning. Finally, all the two perspectives on organizational learning in some way refer to the transfer of the learning process from the individual to collective or organizational level.

Reference List

Argyris, C & Schon, D 1996, Organizational Learning II Readings, Addison-Wesley, Alabama.

Assmann, J 1995, “Collective Memory and Cultural Identity”, New German Critique, vol. 65, pp. 125-133.

Cook, D & Yanow, D 1993, “Culture and Organizational Learning”, The Journal of Management Inquiry, vol. 2 no. 3, pp. 54–83.

Cook, D & Yanow, D 2005, “Culture and Organizational Learning,” In JM Shafritz, JS Ott and YS Jang (eds), Classics of Organization Theory, Thompson Wordworth, pp. 79-90.

Garvin, D, Edmondson, A, & Gino, F. 2008, “Is yours learning organization”, Harvard Business Review, Vol. 86 No. 3 pp. 109-116.

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IvyPanda. (2019, August 20). Cognitive and Cultural Theories of Organizational Learning. https://ivypanda.com/essays/organization-learning/

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Cognitive and Cultural Theories of Organizational Learning." August 20, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/organization-learning/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Cognitive and Cultural Theories of Organizational Learning'. 20 August.

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