like 'learning company' or 'learning organisation' have been recently used
quite often in order to illustrate a new quality of learning within companies.
In Germany this approach was criticised as an attempt to separate the learning
process from the individual. Moreover, empirical studies have shown that
the term 'learning company' is used in very different ways by those who
declare their enterprise as 'learning company' – this term is sometimes
identified with teamwork, sometimes with in-company training and sometimes
with the adaptation of the company to changing market requirements.
is a major objective of the EU 5th FP project OrgLearn ('Ways
of Organisational Learning in the Chemical Industry and their Impact on
Vocational Education and Training') to identify ways of organisational
learning in European companies and to discuss their implications for vocational
education and training. First results of an empirical investigation into
processes of organisational learning in the European chemical industry
are available now (see Fischer, M. & Röben, P. eds. Cases of Organisational
Learning in European Chemical Companies). Large chemical companies from
Belgium, Germany, Italy and the UK were involved in this study. Researchers
in the OrgLearn project have carried out more than 100 in-depth-interviews
and have observed the learning culture within these companies during numerous
of this research are presented in the form of case studies. It is important
to note that these cases of organisational learning do not merely depict
the intentions of the company management but real-life phenomena which
could be identified by involving different persons from different levels
of hierarchy and thus different views on the same phenomenon. Phenomena
were related to criteria of organisational learning which had been developed
within the theoretical framework of the OrgLearn project. Inspired from
theorists like Chris Argyris and Donald Schön, Edgar Schein, Peter
Senge and Harald Geissler criteria as follows were established (see first
project publication: Fischer, M. & Röben, P. eds. Ways of Organisational
Learning in the Chemical Industry and their Impact on Vocational Education
and Training – A Literature Review):
worth mentioning that cases presented now meet some of these criteria to
a considerable extent, but not all criteria could be applied to each case
and sometimes only a few aspects of the case described could be related
to a criterion. Thus, there is room for further assessment.
1. Organisational work routines are being evaluated and improved.
2. Formal and informal learning processes are being evaluated and improved.
3. Transformations are occurring in the culture of the organisation.
4. Knowledge is being created within the organisation, at different levels
(not only by the managers/scientists), and it is being shared within the
5. Learning from the environment is encouraged and systematically evaluated.
The results are assimilated and accommodated to the company's objectives
and local constraints and opportunities.
the OrgLearn project, such assessment and evaluation will be done in different
ways. One way includes a quantitative survey through which project findings
are intended to be validated. Another aspect is a strong participatory
approach that is characteristic for the project’s research methods: The
next steps in the project will comprise the organisation of in-company
workshops involving staff from different functional and hierarchical levels
in order to validate findings and to give answers to the question which
groups/categories of employees do (or do not yet) benefit from processes
of organisational learning. An international workshop was recently conducted
where representatives from all companies involved presented their approaches
towards organisational learning and invited experts discussed implications
for vocational education and training. This discussion will be opened to
the interested public.
results will be presented (in English) at the workshop 'Organisational
Learning and Competence Development in Europe' during the conference 'Kompetenzentwicklung
in Unternehmensprozessen' (University of Karlsruhe, Germany, September
23-24, 2002, http://www.uni-karlsruhe.de/~tdi/gtw-konferenz).
Participants from all over Europe are welcome!
an online discussion will be started from the end of September 2002, where
we will request comments on our cases of organisational learning. This
request for comments, case studies and other project publications can be
PD Dr. Martin Fischer, Dr. Peter Röben, ITB, University of Bremen,
Am Fallturm 1, 28359 Bremen, Germany.