Organisational learning and innovation : the study of enablers and relations

Prinsloo, Albert Valerius (2008-12)

Thesis (MPhil (Information Science))--Stellenbosch University, 2008.


In the fast-changing environment of today, organisations have a tendency to change their strategy to be able to adapt to changing circumstances. It has become increasingly important for organisations to remain competitive in the marketplace. The management of organisations is therefore showing more interest in concepts such as organisational learning and innovation. These concepts are seen as contributing factors to the success of the organisation. History has proven, however, that this is not always true. The infrequent success of applying these concepts has resulted in the approach towards organisational learning and innovation concepts being vague. This study aimed to examine the conceptual ambiguity in order to arrive at a better understanding. The problem statement is examined in some detail in Chapter One of this study. The second and third chapters aim to investigate the concepts of organisational learning and innovation separately. To understand the concept of organisational learning better, other related concepts such as organisation, individual learning, knowledge, knowledge management and change management were studied. The focus, however, remained on organisational learning. To elaborate on the concept of organisational learning, the organisational learning cycle was of specific importance together with the characteristics of organisational learning. Aspects that are seen as restrictions to organisational learning were studied and consequently strong theoretical arguments could be provided regarding organisational learning. Aspects that were prominent were the notion that the presence of certain attributes can influence organisational learning, of which organisational structure and organisational culture stand out. There were also certain stumbling blocks that might prevent organisational learning, and individual learning was identified as essential for organisational learning. In Chapter Three a similar approach was followed regarding the concept of innovation. The characteristics of the individual are as important for the sake of innovation as the individual’s tolerance of change. The concepts of change management and structure of the organisation are important to allow for innovation to take place. These concepts were studied separately and in Chapter Four the aim was to compare the two concepts to determine any possible similarities and differences. By doing this, points of correlation as well as possible relations in terms of a systems approach were identified. In this chapter the attributes that support the concepts were listed along with aspects that are seen as stumbling blocks. In Chapter Five the most important aspects relating to organisational learning and innovation are summarised. The one prominent aspect is the impact that the structure of an organisation has on the success of both organisational learning and innovation. The structure of an organisation, however, is based on the strategy of the organisation. The last contributing aspect that needs to be mentioned is the culture of the organisation. The study has indicated clear similarities as well as relations between the concepts, but as with any learning process there are always questions and therefore the study points towards further research. The research can be extended to determine the impact of the shortage of time on organisational learning and/or innovation processes in terms of knowledge management.

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