Role Of Organizational Learning to Achieve Global Competitiveness Research Paper review each study on a half paper for topic ” impact of four dimensions of

Role Of Organizational Learning to Achieve Global Competitiveness Research Paper review each study on a half paper for
topic ” impact of four dimensions of organizational learning by Jerez-Gomez
et al. ( 2005 ) on knowledge worker satisfaction. papers From 2014 -2017 Journal of Business Research 58 (2005) 715 – 725
Organizational learning capability: a proposal of measurement
Pilar Jerez-Gómeza,*, José Céspedes-Lorentea, Ramón Valle-Cabrerab
University of Almeria, La Cañada de San Urbano, s/n, 04120 Almeria, Spain
University Pablo de Olavide, Seville, Spain
Received 1 November 2002; received in revised form 1 October 2003; accepted 1 November 2003
This paper develops a measurement scale for organizational learning capability, supported by the results of a validation study covering a
sample of 111 Spanish firms from the chemical industry. From a strategic viewpoint, the measurement scale identifies the elements that form
learning capability, highlighting its complex and multidimensional nature. The evidence that the results provide regarding the scale’s validity
suggests that we may use this tool in future research work requiring a measurement of learning capability. Likewise, the scale provides
information that could be of use to those managers wishing to improve learning capability in their firms.
D 2004 Published by Elsevier Inc.
Keywords: Organizational learning; Strategic capability; Measurement
1. Organizational learning capability: a proposal of
The analysis of organizational learning has become an
increasingly important study area over recent years. Various
works have dealt with the analysis of this construct from
differing viewpoints. There are studies that focus on this
construct using a psychological approach (Cyert and
March, 1963; Daft and Weick, 1984), a sociological approach (Nelson and Winter, 1982; Levitt and March, 1988),
or from the point of view of Organizational Theory (Cangelosi and Dill, 1965; Senge, 1990; Huber, 1991). More
recently, learning has been considered, from a strategic
perspective, as a source of heterogeneity among organizations, as well as a basis for a possible competitive advantage (Grant, 1996; Lei et al., 1996, 1999). From this latter
approach arises the concept of learning organization, which
implies a change in the traditional way of dealing with
business management.
Although research into organizational learning has provided some relevant insights, there are still certain aspects
that have not been sufficiently analyzed. On one hand, the
widely accepted idea that organizational learning is an
essential element to successfully compete in a global mar-
* Corresponding author. Tel.: +34-950015183; fax: +34-950015178.
E-mail address: (P. Jerez-Gómez).
0148-2963/$ – see front matter D 2004 Published by Elsevier Inc.
ketplace (Prahalad and Hamel, 1990) comes up against the
lack of empirical research that has been carried out to this
respect (Garvin, 1993). Although various case studies have
taken an in-depth look at the inherent complexity of the
organizational learning construct (e.g., Leonard-Barton,
1992), measuring and empirically testing an organizational
learning scale may contribute towards the field of study,
making generalizable conclusions more easily drawn. Thus,
we need to take into account the multidimensional nature of
the construct, recognized in various studies (e.g., Senge,
1990; Lei et al., 1999).
Our objective is to contribute towards the level of
knowledge regarding organizational learning, developing a
measurement tool that is adapted to its multidimensional
nature. We test its validity and reliability in a sample of 111
Spanish manufacturing firms from the chemical industry.
Designing this measurement scale may be relevant for
various reasons. First, to facilitate work that allows the
antecedents and the learning effects on organizations to be
evaluated. Second, to identify the different dimensions from
which it is formed and hence the underlying relationships.
This would allow the evaluation of tools that are adequate
for the provision of organizational learning.
We first establish the concept of organizational learning,
concentrating on its complex nature. We then develop a
measurement scale according to this complex nature, paying
particular attention to checking its validity. Finally, we set
out the main conclusions and implications of the study.
P. Jerez-Gómez et al. / Journal of Business Research 58 (2005) 715–725
2. Organizational learning: establishing the concept
In the literature on organizational learning, we come
across a constant evocation of the psychological concept of
individual learning. Its influence, direct or indirect, on the
way in which organizations learn justifies the fact that many
theories on organizational learning are based on observations of individual learning and of the organization –individual analogy (Kim, 1993). Although organizational
learning has its roots in individual learning (Shrivastava,
1983; Senge, 1990), the process that leads to its development is not as simple as just adding together the individual
learning of the organization’s different members (Argyris
and Schön, 1978; Hedberg, 1981). Organizational learning
is seen as a dynamic process based on knowledge, which
implies moving among the different levels of action, going
from the individual to the group level, and then to the
organizational level and back again (Huber, 1991; Crossan
et al., 1999). This process stems from the knowledge
acquisition of the individuals and progresses with the
exchange and integration of this knowledge until a corpus
of collective knowledge is created (Hedberg, 1981), embedded in the organizational processes and culture. This
collective knowledge, which is stored in the so-called
organizational memory (Walsh and Ungson, 1991), has an
impact on the type of knowledge acquired and the way in
which it is interpreted and shared. What an individual learns
in an organization greatly depends on what is already
known by the other members of the organization—in other
words, on the common knowledge base (Simon, 1991). Fig.
1 reflects the continuity and dynamism of the learning
Analyzing learning as a process highlights three main
aspects. First, knowledge and, more specifically, its acquisition or creation, along with its dissemination and integration
within the organization, become a key strategic resource
(Grant, 1996; Zander and Kogut, 1995; Teece et al., 1997).
This gives rise to the idea that organizational learning has a
collective nature that goes beyond the individual learning of
persons (Shrivastava, 1983). Second, this creation and dissemination of new knowledge imply the existence of constant
internal changes that can occur at a cognitive or behavioral
level (Fiol and Lyles, 1985). Third, these internal changes
lead to a process of constant improvement that allows the
firm’s actions to be maintained or bettered (Fiol and Lyles,
1985; Garvin, 1993; Slocum et al., 1994), or even to achieve a
competitive advantage based on firms’ different learning
capabilities (Mahoney, 1995; Brenneman et al., 1998).
The aforementioned aspects enable us to conceptualize
organizational learning as the capability of an organization
to process knowledge—in other words, to create, acquire,
transfer, and integrate knowledge, and to modify its behavior to reflect the new cognitive situation, with a view to
improving its performance.
The effective development of organizational learning
capability requires four conditions. First, company management must provide decisive backing to organizational learning (Stata, 1989; Garvin, 1993). Management should
spearhead the process, making clear its support and involving all the personnel (Williams, 2001). Second, it requires
the existence of a collective conscience that allows the firm
to be seen as a system in which each element must make its
own contribution so as to obtain a satisfactory result
(DeGeus, 1988; Senge, 1990). If a shared vision is lacking,
the individual actions do not contribute towards organizational learning (Kim, 1993).
Third, it needs the development of organizational knowledge, based on the transfer and integration of knowledge
acquired individually (Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995). Creating a corpus of organizational knowledge, steeped in the
routines and processes of the work itself, is essential for
guaranteeing the organization’s continuous learning, irrespective of the individuals that form part of it (Daft and
Weick, 1984). Lastly, simply adapting to the changes within
the established framework does not suffice for learning
capability to be a source of heterogeneity among firms
inasmuch as adaptation is an inadequate response in the
current competitive environment (Hedberg, 1981; McGill
and Slocum, 1993). The firm must go beyond an adaptive
learning and concentrate on the learning level needed to
question the organizational system in force and, if necessary,
make changes in search of more innovative and flexible
alternatives—generative learning (Senge, 1990; McGill et
al., 1992)—a learning that requires an open mentality
towards new ideas and a great deal of experimentation
(Leonard-Barton, 1992).
3. The multidimensionality of organizational learning
Fig. 1. Organizational learning process.
Authors who point out the necessity of describing
organizational learning fully and precisely maintain that it
is essential to develop reliable, valid methods of measurement (Easterby-Smith et al., 2000). One of the traditional
ways of measuring learning has been to use so-called
learning curves (Yelle, 1979; Lieberman, 1987) and experience curves (Boston Consulting Group, 1968). However,
P. Jerez-Gómez et al. / Journal of Business Research 58 (2005) 715–725
these curves are ‘‘incomplete measuring tools’’ (Garvin,
1993, p. 89) because they concentrate exclusively on
learning by doing and measure learning in terms of the
results obtained, in search of short-term efficiency. Besides
studying experience curves, learning has also been measured by taking into account other variables, such as number
of patents (Decarolis and Deeds, 1999) or R & D expenditure (Bierly and Chakrabarti, 1996).
The common characteristic shared by all these techniques
is that they focused on process outcomes, rather than the
actual learning processes, but ‘‘organizational learning is a
complex multidimensional construct . . . encompassing multiple subprocesses’’ (Slater and Narver, 1994, p. 2). We
consider organizational learning to be a latent multidimensional construct inasmuch as its full significance lies beneath the various dimensions that go towards its makeup.
Thus, an organization should show a high degree of learning
in each and every one of the dimensions defined to be able
to state that its learning capability is high. These dimensions, called managerial commitment, systems perspective,
openness and experimentation, and knowledge transfer and
integration, sum up the aspects mentioned previously as the
basic elements needed for an organization to learn, and
constitute our organizational learning structure model.
3.1. Organizational learning capability dimensions
3.1.1. Managerial commitment
Management should recognize the relevance of learning,
thus developing a culture that promotes the acquisition,
creation, and transfer of knowledge as fundamental values
(Stata, 1989; McGill et al., 1992; Garvin, 1993; Nonaka and
Takeuchi, 1995). Management should articulate a strategic
view of learning, making it a central visible element and a
valuable tool with an influence on the obtaining of longterm results (Ulrich et al., 1993; Slocum et al., 1994; Nevis
et al., 1995; Hult and Ferrell, 1997). Likewise, management
should ensure that the firm’s employees understand the
importance of learning and become involved in its achievement, considering it an active part in the firm’s success
(Senge, 1990; Slater and Narver, 1995; Spender, 1996;
Williams, 2001). Finally, management should drive the
process of change, taking the responsibility for creating an
organization that is able to regenerate itself and face up to
new challenges (Lei et al., 1999). Management should
eliminate old beliefs and mental models that may have
helped to interpret reality in the past but may now be seen
as obstacles inasmuch as they help to perpetuate assumptions that do not correspond to the current situation
(DeGeus, 1988; McGill and Slocum, 1993; Nonaka, 1994;
Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995).
3.1.2. Systems perspective
Systems perspective entails bringing the organization’s
members together around a common identity (Senge, 1990;
Sinkula, 1994). The various individuals, departments, and
areas of the firm should have a clear view of the organization’s objectives and understand how they can help in
their development (Hult and Ferrell, 1997; Lei et al., 1999).
The organization should be considered as a system that is
made up of different parts, each with its own function but
act in a coordinated manner (Stata, 1989; Leonard-Barton,
1992; Kofman and Senge, 1993; Nevis et al., 1995).
Viewing the firm as a system implicitly involves recognizing the importance of relationships based on the exchange of
information and services (Ulrich et al., 1993), and infers the
development of shared mental models (Senge, 1990; Kim,
1993; Miller, 1996). Inasmuch as organizational learning
implies shared knowledge, perceptions, and beliefs, it will
be enhanced by the existence of a common language and
joint action by all the individuals involved in the process.
Thus, the presence of a common language favors knowledge
integration—a crucial aspect in the development of organizational learning (Grant, 1996). In this way, organizational
learning goes beyond the employees’ individual learning
and takes on a collective nature (McGill et al., 1992).
3.1.3. Openness and experimentation
Our unit of analysis is generative or double-loop learning, which requires a climate of openness that welcomes the
arrival of new ideas and points of view, both internal and
external, allowing individual knowledge to be constantly
renewed, widened, and improved (Senge, 1990; LeonardBarton, 1992; Slocum et al., 1994; Sinkula, 1994). To create
a climate of openness, there needs to be a previous commitment to cultural and functional diversity, as well as a
readiness to accept all types of opinions and experiences and
to learn from them, avoiding the egocentric attitude of
considering one’s own values, beliefs, and experiences to
be better than the rest (McGill et al., 1992; McGill and
Slocum, 1993; Nevis et al., 1995). Openness to new ideas,
coming from within the organization or from outside it,
favors experimentation—an essential aspect for generative
learning—inasmuch as it implies the search for innovative
flexible solutions to current and future problems, based on
the possible use of different methods and procedures (Leonard-Barton, 1992; Garvin, 1993). Experimentation requires
a culture that promotes creativity, an enterprising ability, and
the readiness to take controlled risks, supporting the idea
that one can learn from one’s mistakes (Slocum et al., 1994;
Slater and Narver, 1995; Naman and Slevin, 1993).
3.1.4. Knowledge transfer and integration
This fourth dimension refers to two closely linked processes, which occur simultaneously rather than successively:
internal transfer and integration of knowledge. The efficacy
of these two processes rests on the previous existence of
absorptive capacity (Cohen and Levinthal, 1990), implying
the lack of internal barriers that impede the transfer of best
practices within the firm (Szulanski, 1996).
Transfer implies the internal spreading of knowledge
acquired at an individual level, mainly through conversa-
P. Jerez-Gómez et al. / Journal of Business Research 58 (2005) 715–725
tions and interaction among individuals (Brown and
Duguid, 1991; Kofman and Senge, 1993; Nicolini and
Meznar, 1995)—in other words, through fluid communication, dialogue, and debate. Fluid communication relies
mainly on the existence of agile information systems that
guarantee the accuracy and availability of the information
(McGill and Slocum, 1993). With regard to dialogue and
debate, work teams and personnel meetings can be ideal
forums in which to openly share ideas (Stata, 1989; Garvin,
1993; Nonaka, 1994; Slater and Narver, 1995; Lei et al.,
1999). The main role of work teams in developing organizational learning is frequently underlined in the literature
(DiBella et al., 1996; Snell et al., 1996), with particular
emphasis placed on multidiscipline and multifunction teams
(Garvin, 1993; Ulrich et al., 1993; Nonaka, 1994; Nonaka
and Takeuchi, 1995). Team learning places the group above
the individual, allowing the transfer, interpretation, and
integration of the knowledge acquired individually (Senge,
1990; Hult and Ferrell, 1997). This integration leads to the
creation of a collective corpus of knowledge rooted in
organizational culture, work processes, and the remaining
elements that form the ‘‘organizational memory’’ (Huber,
1991; Walsh and Ungson, 1991). Thus, the knowledge can
be subsequently recovered and applied to different situations, guaranteeing the firm’s constant learning in spite of
the natural rotation of its members (Levitt and March, 1988;
Simon, 1991).
Table 1 sums up the theoretical support for our model,
grouping together the different components identified by
other authors in terms of their relation to each dimension.
3.2. Relations among the dimensions of organizational
learning capability
Although the four dimensions identified are different,
they are related. Thus, the aforementioned consideration of
organizational learning as a dynamic process reveals the
interaction between openness and experimentation and
knowledge transfer and integration. To ensure the effective
development of organizational learning, the knowledge
acquired and created on an individual level has to be
transferred and integrated into the organization (Huber,
1991). Furthermore, the success of this integration, as Grant
(1996) points out, depends on the presence of a common
language and a shared vision by all the organization’s
members (systems perspective). Organizational culture
plays an important role in this, and its development will
depend on management support (managerial commitment).
Common factors underlie the four dimensions, explaining why they are so closely linked. For example, the four
Table 1
Dimensions of organizational learning capability: an overview of the literature
Related factors according to authors reviewed
Managerial commitment
n Managerial backing (Stata, 1989)
n Shared vision and mental models (Senge, 1990)
n Personal efficacy (McGill et al., 1992)
n Leadership commitment (Garvin, 1993; McGill and Slocum, 1993; Goh and Richards, 1997)
n Strategic intent (Slocum et al., 1994)
n Leadership and intention (Nonaka, 1994; Nonaka and Takeuchi, 1995)
n Involved leadership (Nevis et al., 1995)
n Facilitative leadership (Slater and Narver, 1995)
n Learning orientation (Hult and Ferrell, 1997)
n Shared vision (Senge, 1990)
n Systems thinking (Stata, 1989; Senge, 1990; Leonard-Barton, 1992)
n Systemic thinking (McGill et al., 1992)
n Systems perspective (Nevis et al., 1995)
n Clarity of purpose and mission (Goh and Richards, 1997)
n Systems orientation (Hult and Ferrell, 1997)
n Openness to new ideas (Stata, 1989)
n Independent problem solving, continuous innovation and experimentation and
integration of external knowledge (Leonard-Barton, 1992)
n Openness and creativity (McGill et al., 1992)
n Continuous learning and experimentation culture (McGill and Slocum, 1993)
n Experimentation and learning from past experience and from others (Garvin, 1993)
n Continuous experimentation and learning from past situations (Slocum et al., 1994)
n Entrepreneurship (Slater and Narver, 1995)
n Operational variety, multiple advocates, climate of openness and experimental mind-set (Nevis et al., 1995)
n Experimentation (Goh an…
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