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Article Type: Editorial From: The Learning Organization, Volume 15, Issue 4.
Welcome to Volume 15, Issue 4. On the surface there are four quite different papers to be found here, although they are all linked by the passion with which their authors wish to argue their cases. There are, however, other links.
The paper “Organizational learning and the learning organization: reviewing evolution for prospecting the future” by Teresa Rebelo and Adelino Gomes, is looking firmly to the future, seeking guidelines for future learning organisation development. Their use of the Reichers and Schneider (1990) model of the evolution of concepts provides an interesting way of determining where the learning organisation has got to in terms of research development. Their findings argue that, “to overcome the criticism and consolidate the concepts, a substantial investment in cumulative empirical research into topics that involve or are influenced by organizational learning is essential, as well as an effort to clarity some questions that are still confused in the literature, such as the ’who learns’ and ’how organizations learn’ questions”. It can be argued that the other three papers in the issue are part of a move towards development of such empirical research.
The contribution by Harriet Eliufoo in “Knowledge creation in construction organisations: a case approach” is to consider how knowledge is created within the construction industry. The use of the four cases allows depth of thinking in terms of why certain cases are working differently than others. The ideas of knowledge as the desired outcome of a learning organisation lead to consideration of the Establishment of specific knowledge creation models through an empirical investigation of construction organisations shows that, as context is an essential component in the creation of knowledge, a challenge exists for construction organisations to create the right environment for it to exist. The one-off nature of construction projects mean that for every project, construction organisations need to have a ‘context’ that is unique for that particular project. This implies construction organisations have to work much more consciously to create knowledge, as against industries that have repetitive activities. This idea of a learning project, connected in a network fashion to other projects gives a very different picture of the potential of learning organisations.
It could be argued that this view leads to a very different view of the role of managers and leaders in such organisations. There are serious implications in terms of fostering organisational learning and it is in this context that Daniel Homitz and Zane Berge’s consideration of “Using e-mentoring to sustain distance training and education” may provide some real way s forward. As they argue “The meaning of a mentor today is someone who is a wise counselor, guide, facilitator, coach, and often a role model”. They show that one effective and cost-effective way to monitor and improve the effectiveness of training and education in the workplace is to involve expert peers, subject matter experts, and managers in a mentoring or coaching capacity. This may also be a way to develop networks between disparate projects.
The fourth paper is potentially more closely related to the construction case, especially as it has the organisation as the unit of analysis. Marjolein Caniëls and Henny Romijn talk about “Supply chain development: insights from strategic niche management”. The interest here is the link between learning, knowledge and complex dynamic systems. The case used in this paper is concerned with biofuels in East Africa and finds that there are three dynamic processes at the core of new supply chain development: networking, learning and the management of actor expectations. For this journal the fundamental importance of learning in the success of other processes is not necessarily novel, but the evidence from this context is providing the empirical development sought by the earlier paper. There is also an argument that the mentoring of managers will be crucial in the successful implementation of the new process development.
I hope you enjoy the ideas presented in these papers and look forward to another range of ideas linking knowledge, learning and process implementation in future issues.