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Applying cybernetic thinking to becoming a learning organization

Kesiena Mercy Clement-Okooboh (Institute for Educational Cybernetics, University of Bolton, Bolton, UK)
Bill Olivier (Institute for Educational Cybernetics, University of Bolton, Bolton, UK)


ISSN: 0368-492X

Article publication date: 3 November 2014




The purpose of this paper is to provide a case study of the application of cybernetic thinking by the learning and development unit in a national branch of a large multinational company to help move towards its strategic objective of becoming a learning organization.


A work-based action research approach was adopted. Through a series of action research cycles, the paper presents the interplay between developments in the organization and several strands of cybernetic thinking.


Cybernetic thinking was incrementally integrated to create a new support framework for developing a learning organization.

Research limitations/implications

As a case study the work reported has limited generality. Users of the support framework need to take account of and, to some degree, replicate the specific conditions that led to its success. These included the strategic aim of becoming a learning organization and supportive senior management.

Practical implications

The case study and framework will be of greatest use to other organizations that have the strategic intent of becoming a learning organization, but seek guidance on implementation.

Social implications

Cybernetic thinking was used to create feedback loops from internal and external conditions, to enhance learning, performance and adaptivity. This involved all employees in their and their organization's future development.


The paper's value offers a concrete instance of applying cybernetic thinking to the creation of a learning organization, a task often found to be difficult in practice. This has been abstracted into a support framework.



Clement-Okooboh, K.M. and Olivier, B. (2014), "Applying cybernetic thinking to becoming a learning organization", Kybernetes, Vol. 43 No. 9/10, pp. 1319-1329.



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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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