The Learning Organisation: A rose by the wrong name?

Patrick Bradbery

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The learning organisation is now a well established part of the management lexicon. Since the idea was first used in a book title by Garratt in the mid-eighties and then popularised by Senge in The Fifth Discipline, it has steadily grown in interest. However, a critical examination of the literature indicates a divergence. Those who follow the Senge lead take the learning organisation to be something quite distinct from the traditional 'command-and-control' organisation. Others, however, adopt a more conventional view, and understand the learning organisation as a place where learning happens and is managed in more or less conventional ways. This paper reports on a transcendental phenomenological investigation of the essence of the experience of the learning organisation. That investigation raised the question of whether the use of the term learning organisation was contributing to confusion, because it did not convey a clear idea of differentiation. There is a case for dissecting the concept into more focused components, aligned with the stage of development of the organisation. Thus we may distinguish a training organisation from a learning organisation. The learning organisation could be distinguished from the developing organisation, and from the liberating organisation, which is a title that fits more comfortably with the radical ideas expressed by Senge.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-232
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Change Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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