Systems Theory/Systems Learning
Systems Learning is a complex concept that involves understanding and gathering information about systems that entail small organizations all the way up to global entities. Systems learning can be placed beside the term organizational learning and has been more evident in recent knowledge management research. This subject encompasses a variety of disciplines such as mathematics, physics, engineering, as well as, sociology and economics. Most research has experimented with organizational learning only on one specific discipline and has not taken it to the next level by using it with other known models. This curriculum diversification has hindered an accurate definition of organizational learning. Several meanings exist which some stand out in the research than others. One definition expressed by popular researchers is “it is undertaken by members of an organization to achieve organizational purposes, takes place in teams or small groups, is distributed widely throughout the organization, and embeds its outcomes in the organization’s system, structures and culture (Synder and Cummings, 1998). Since there is no hard evidence of what really goes on in an organization, it is difficult to state whether organizational learning is a reality for the organization. The traditional view of learning in an organization involves informal processes. Today, organizational learning is more structured, as employees are expected to direct and inform in a way that is highly correlated to work performance. Argyris and Shcon are the two pioneers of organizational learning who brought forth the sociocultural approach and described it as “the growth of a culture of open communication, in which members of an organization collaborate in ‘organizational enquiries’ to discover better ways of achieving the organizations purpose”(Borham and Morgan, 2004).
Systems dynamics suggest that learning is a process that can be acquired through making choices and learning from them. By learning from your mistakes an individual can grow and become more able to adapt to certain circumstances. Since systems dynamics experiment with models that can only imitate reality, it is hard to create an experimental environment to enable a successful learning atmosphere. Some say that there is an underlined political dynamics influence that cannot be ignored by organizational learning. The works of Crossan, Lane and White (1999) developed a model of organizational learning, which involves a four-step process. The 4I process starts with individual learning and then graduates to group learning which ends up with organizational learning. Crossan’s four processes included in this model are intuiting, interpreting, integrating, and institutionalizing. Intuiting by Crossan is defined as, “the preconscious recognition of the pattern and/or possibilities inherent in a personal stream of experience” (1999:525). Intuiting starts with the individual where they learn from their experiences and then use these experiences for future mental models. Interpreting is explained by Crossan as, “the explaining of, through words and/or actions, of an insight or idea to one’s self and to others” (Crossan 1999:525). Interpreting allows one to map out ideas to use in external domains. Group level starts at the interpreting process and is explained as, “the process of developing shared understanding among individuals and of taking coordinated action through mutual adjustment” (Crossan 1999:525). The victory of collective behavior and action is the group feel of interpretation. Institutionalizing is described by Crossan as, “systems, structures, procedures and strategies” (Crossan 1999:525) that is the core piece of organizational learning. A learning loop begins to form with the involvement of these four processes and take hold of the organizational learning entity. The transformation into the institutional element of organizational learning has a definite political component as individuals deal with power in an organization and how ideas are reflected through this underlying element.
- A sociocultural analysis of organisational learning. By: Boreham, Nick; Morgan, Colin. Oxford Review of Education, Sep2004, Vol. 30 Issue 3, p307, 19p; DOI: 10.1080/0305498042000260467; (AN 14573925)
- Argyris, C. & Schon, D. (1978) Organizational Learning: A Theory of Action Perspective, Addision-Wesley, Reading, MA.