Organization Learning- Critical Literature Appraisal

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I have chosen Organization learning as a topic for critical literature review. Organizational learning has gained a lot of significance in the presence and development of information technology to gain competitive advantage and survival. A huge amount of research work is being conducted on this topic in business schools around the world. Organizational learning has been defined and refined by many researchers. It is recognized as a process of improving actions through better knowledge and understanding. In this text, the critical literature appraisal and comparison of three articles on organization learning is presented.

Critical Literature Appraisal:

  1. Structuring for organizational Learning:

This research paper explores the two basic concepts of organizational structure and facilitation & prevention of organizational learning. This paper further tries to establish some correlation between these concepts. This paper argues that the contingency approach of organizing is ineffective, keeping in view the internal dynamics and strengths of the organization to cope with the environmental uncertainties. In the end, it proposes a structure that is effective for the individual as well as organizational learning.

This study paper explores the issue based on critical literature review and focuses on how organizations can structure to be better learning organizations. One of the strengths of this paper is that its insights on organizational structures are intensive in nature and full focus on organizational learning.

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This research paper is a critical way, has extensively explained the structures of the organizations that can contribute to organizational learning and the process of learning. One of the strengths of this literature review is that it draws a conclusion that gives managers an impetus for developing their corporations’ learning potential to gain a competitive advantage. The study’s strength also lies invalid conclusions and managerial implications. Moreover, it suggests them to implement skills of effective knowledge management. It also provides a road map and the theoretical base for further study such as:

One study can be carried to check the following.

The hypothesis could be: Do M-type organizations learn fast?

Another study can be carried to find out how people interact with an organization.

The hypothesis could be: Does different interactions have different effects on learning within an organization?

However, the research methodology is not rigorous as it draws conclusions and gives implications based on critical literature review and becomes oversimplified. It ignores the literature review on certain factors that could strengthen the study. It does not take into account all dimensions of knowledge transferring in organizations. For example, knowledge in value, behaviors, assumptions, and emotions is hard to transfer. This research work also does not study the intra-organizational heterogeneity of members’ mental schemata.

  1. The legitimating of learning

This research work looks at organizational learning from a very different angle and adopts a narrative style describing autobiographies of learning and change at organizational levels. It adopts a discursive style and looks at organizational learning as a metaphor for understanding organizational life, an amalgam of highly different and varied views and changing stories.  This approach comes with certain benefits and covers the areas and factors that were overlooked in the previous study “Structuring for organizational learning.” The soft knowledge such as values, culture, assumptions, and stories have been incorporated in this research work on the proposition that organizations are made of individuals and subgroups having conflicting goals and views that can be resolved using power.


Moreover, storytelling research technique is quite effective in this organizational learning analysis that adopts pluralistic approach. These organizational stories work like inquiry into how learning is perceived and represented by individuals in an organization as a metaphor for understating organizational life having conflicting view points and stories.


The storytelling approach also seems effective as it understands the organizational change that has varied themes. Some of them are learning themes. It also allows an entertainment of the notion of improvement. Moreover, stories in a way take the form of cases that are extensively applicable in the corporate world. One of the strengths of this study is the organizational multicultural aspects and power and role of management has also been taken into consideration.


However, this study lacks true theoretical base needed to establish the legitimacy of organizational learning and only relies on few studies and thus draws conclusion. There is also problem of reliability of the stories and their interpretations.  We also know that interpretation of stories would vary from person to person, thus conclusion drawn on the basis of these interpretations would have biasness. As corporate stories may take the form of personal stories, the true purpose of research study may be lost.


  1. Conviction and doubt in organizational learning

As learning begin when we start questing the status quo, this research study  puts light on how doubt and convictions operate to foster organizational learning. This research paper first explores the concepts of doubt and conviction, on the basis of which, formulates a model to represent how doubt and conviction work to create an organizational learning environment and then presents a brief case study to draw practical applications of how doubt and conviction assist interventions in organizational learning.

This research works look better than the previous studies discussed above, as it amalgamates both the features of them, such as theory and case study. Moreover, it presents a model of organizational learning based on theory and case study.  This paper presents that doubt works as a spark to ignite organizational learning as it gives rise to inquiry and questioning. However, the conviction is also needed as it provides courage to follow one’s creative thinking and do experiments to confront the status quo.

Moreover, the model presented in this study has much more practical application as it takes into account individual as well as collective factors of an organization to be a learning one. As the analysis shows, organizational learning can take place through various intervention points focusing and including both individual as well collective changes, so both have to be planned. Interventions aimed at creating doubt are different from those focused on the creation of convictions; doubt is recognized to be an individual capacity, and that consensus or organizational conviction demands collective agreement, which is referred to as “paradigm shift.”

This research paper also invite us to study many other dimensions of organizational learning such as individual as well organizational levels and how both of them correlate with each other or differentiate.

The study also suggests that new research can be aimed at the followings:

The relationship between doubt and conviction and their individual effects on organizational learning

This study cab also is combined with the study of “Legitimating organizational learning” to get better results.

However, this research work still lacks true definitions of doubt and conviction as they are psychological concepts and thus require further refinement. Moreover, its generalizability is also questioned as it is much difficult to study doubt and conviction at complex organizations having diverse cultures. These concepts have to be tested empirically.




The legitimating of learning



Structuring for organizational learning



Conviction and doubt in organizational learning

Approach/study  Type Narrative and Inquiry


Theoretical study Theoretical/case study


Generalizability low High Low
Validity No Yes yes
Data Collection Method Literature/Stories Literature Review Case Study
Models suggested No No Yes



It is clear from the above-noted research studies that every research comes with strengths and weaknesses and demands for further research work to enhance the knowledge dimensions.

We have also observed that one concept can be studied in various ways, applying different approaches to data collection, study types, critical literature reviews. One of the major things that can be a major difference among the studies conducted on a similar topic is the theoretical background on which the concepts are built, and further models are based. If we lack a true theoretical basis, our research study may not present valid results and implications.

Organizational learning has been defined as a process that involves confronting our own behavior openly. We have also seen that self-doubt is essential for igniting learning as we start doubting the current established practices at the organizational level; learning starts to occur.

Organizational learning is now one of the strengths of modern-world organizations to achieve better performance, develop organizational efficiency, serve greater business value, and gain a competitive edge.

One of the dimensions of organizational learning is an innovation that takes place through shard-vision, inter-organizational knowledge sharing, and open-mindedness. We have also learned through these studies that the learning process at the individual as well as the organizational level has to be supported to become intelligent organizations. They also need to break the conventional rigid boundaries and build leadership, diversified teams, free collaboration, etc. The organizational structure greatly influences the organizational learning process and its effectiveness at the corporate level.


·         Jacky Hong, Jacky Hong,(1999), “Structuring for organizational learning,” The Learning Organization, 6(4), pp:173-186, Online available at:

·         Param Srikantia, William Pasmore, (1996), “Conviction and doubt in organizational learning,” Journal of Organizational Change Management, 9(1), pp:42-53, online available at:

  • Carl Rhodes, (1997), “The legitimation of learning in organizational change,” Journal of Organizational Change Management, 10(1), pp: 10-21, online available at:

  • John Seely Brown, Paul Duguid (1991), “Organizational learning and communities-of-practice” online available at:

  • J. M. (1984), “Changing Interpretive Schemes and Organizational Restructuring: The Example of a Religious Order,” Administrative Science Quarterly, 29, 355-372.

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