Managing Organisational Knowledge for Sustainability and Competitive Advantage

Introduction to the unit

There are a number of challenges associated with personal and organisational learning. There are issues accociated with the failure to innovate and to change. We should consider the figure below that graphically illustrates the interactions and ovelaps of key components.

A diagram showing interactions between learning, change and managing organisational knowledge.
Fig 1. Interactions between learning, change and managing organisational knowledge.

So, what are the challenges of initiating? In summary, they might be:

  • Not enough time
  • No help (coaching and support)
  • Not relevant
  • Walking the talk

And sustaining? Consider:

  • Fear and anxiety
  • Assessment and measurement
  • True believers and non-believers

And how about redesighing and rethinking? Consider:

  • Governance
  • Diffusion
  • Strategy and purpose

Failures to learn and change then are often due to issues embedded in the prevailing system of management. For example, the managers' commitment as long as change doesn't affect them. There might be 'undiscussable' topics that feel risky to talk about. The habit of attacking the symptoms and ignoring deeper, systemic causes of problems.

In terms of ecological/systematic thinking:

The more we study the major problems of our time, the more we come to realise that they cannot be understood in isolation. They are systemic problems – interconnected and interdependent. Stabilising world population will only be possible when poverty is reduced worldwide. The extinction of animal and plant species on a massive scale will continue as long as the South is burdened with massive debts. Only if we stop the international arms trade will we have the resources to prevent the many destructive impacts on the biosphere and on human life... these problems are just different facets of one single crisis, which is essentially a crisis of perception.

(Capra and Pauli, 1995:2)

So to some up this introduction on learning capabilities, we could do worse than observe that for change:

  • We need to focus on reflection and inquiry skills which enable people to talk openly about complex, conflictive issues without invoking defensiveness.
  • We need to induce skills of ‘systems thinking’ which allows people to see and deal with interdependencies and deeper causes of problems.

Learning outcomes