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Organisational Learning in the Workplace (BUS221)

Semester: B
Level: 5
Module code: BUS221
Module organiser: Professor Stephen Fox

Module Overview

This module aims to give you an understanding of organizational learning in the workplace: what it is; how we can study and make sense of it; and the implications for several practical areas of management such as strategy formulation, change management, and innovation.

The module is designed to equip students with resources and skills for thinking critically about organizational learning in the workplace. Students will be introduced to a range of perspectives on organizational learning from a broad spectrum of social science disciplines and studies of management and organizational practices. Students will be encouraged to critically assess and think about the nature of organizations, management and learning; including the different perspectives and methods for making sense of these topics.

The lectures will provide an historical and conceptual orientation to the reading material, giving wider context, explaining the background and the key debates. There are at least three disciplines involved in the Organizational Learning field: Psychology; Economics & Strategy; and Sociology. Key debates largely go on within each of these three threads and also between them. So it is an 'interdisciplinary' field. Each of these three disciplines, offer distinctive criteria and reference points for the debates. The interactions amongst them create a lively set of research agendas, intellectual arguments, practical applications and critical reflections. The 'field' is widely regarded as having started with Chris Argyris' work in the 1970s. He is said to have coined the expression 'organizational learning'. 'Learning theory' goes back much further of course, as does 'organization theory'.

In practice, much of organizational learning in the workplace takes place in teams and/or other ‘collective’ groupings such as: formal and informal meetings, networks, task forces, consultation exercises. We will look at some ideas and research on these different groupings. Within seminars, we will work in groupings we call ‘home groups’ which are a sort of ‘team’. From the experience of working in these teams we will learn things we cannot simply learn from reading theory, however good that theory is.


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