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Organizations as Brains: Flexible, Resilient and Inventive

See the attached file.


After reading the attached articles (Part 3A Attachment), discuss "how social networks and social media create and support a "learning organization." With this in mind, please be sure to address the following issues, along with presenting any other ideas about this concept that you find interesting to assist me with this problem such as:

1. What is a "learning organization"? How does it differ from the sum of the knowledge possessed by all the individual members of the organization?

2. Organizations aren't just one big social network in which everybody is equally connected to everybody else, but a lot of smaller networks that are often only partially connected to each other. How does this increase or decrease the possibilities for a learning organization?

3. How can the kinds of social media that Bersin discusses help develop the learning organization? Are there any potential downsides to the use of such media?

4. Are there any ways in which social media tools might facilitate learning in the context of a widely distributed organizational system like UMUC classes? How could we become more of a "learning organization" ourselves?

5. What, if anything, does thinking about an "organization as a brain" add to what we have learned by thinking about an "organization as a machine" and an "organization as an organism"?

Required Readings

Bersin, J. (2008) Social networking and corporate learning. CLO Magazine. October. Retrieved November 11, 2008, from

David Skyrme Associates (N.D.) Insights on The learning Organization Retrieved November 20, 2007, from

Krebs, V. (2007) Knowledge Networks: Mapping and Measuring Knowledge Creation. Retrieved November 20, 2007, from

Optional Readings

Albrecht, K. (N.D.) Organizational Intelligence & Knowledge Management: Thinking Outside the Silos. Retrieved November 20, 2007, from

Andersen, E. (1992) On organizations as brains. Retrieved August 24, 2008, from

Australian Institute of Management. Organisational Intelligence: Interview with Karl Albrecht:. Retrieved November 20, 2007, from

Friel, B. (2002) Hierarchies and Networks. Government Executive. April 1. Retrieved May 16, 2009, from

Veryard Associates (2007) What is Organizational Intelligence? Retrieved November 20, 2007, from


Solution Preview

Learning Organizations and Social Networks and Social Media

In order to put the concept of an organization as a brain, which is akin to a network of nerve cells, we must first define what a learning organization is. After all an organism equipped with a brain is also equipped with the capacity to learn from its experiences and from its environment. As a matter of fact, Nancy Dixon, as quoted by Farago & Skyrme (1995), aptly described the relationship of an organization and the brain when she said "The essence of [organizational] learning is the organization's ability to use the amazing mental capacity of all its members to create the kind of processes that will improve its own."

Pigeonholing the meaning of a learning organization in one neat sentence or paragraph, unfortunately, is not that easy. Some are standing by Peter Senge's official definition in his book that started it all, "The fifth discipline: The art and practice of the learning organization" (Ă–rtenblad, 2007, p. 108). Nevertheless, the learning organization has been identified as a key strategy and a valuable tool in for organizations, whether they be for profit or not for profit, to facilitate learning and knowledge management, and thus in improving organization performances and not only in maintaining competitive advantages, but in developing them (Weldy, 2009, p. 58).

According to Watkins and Marsick (1992), a learning organization is one that is "characterized by total employee involvement in a process of collaboratively conducted, collectively accountable change directed towards shared values or principles" (p. 118). On the other hand, Pedler et al (1991, 1996, 1007) defined it as "organization that facilitates the learning of all its members and continually transforms itself" (p. 1). The man himself defined learning organization as somewhere "people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole [reality] together" (Senge, 1990, p. 3).

Because an organization has a completely different mission and objectives from all the individual members, it means that the knowledge it possesses and is developing could be entirely very different from the sum knowledge possessed by all its individual members. In other words, ...

Solution Summary

This solution discusses learning organizations.