Communities of Practice LO27093

From: D P Dash (
Date: 08/02/01

Replying to LO27085 --

Relating to LO27053--

Reflecting upon the question of whether organisations learn:

I think it has been eloquently argued that organisations are not people.
But in this mail, I am exploring if they are at least people-like. It will
call for some open generosity from the readers to appreciate my point of

 A. Can organisations do to people what people are capable of doing to
each other? The answer seems to be 'yes'. Organisations can inspire, make
one feel secure, give money, as also demotivate, cause stress, take away
money, etc.

 B. Can organisation takeover part of the responsibility of people? Again
the answer seems to be 'yes'. Economic organisations take over the
responsibility of producing everything one needs to consume. Legal
organisations take over the responsibility of deciding violation of
codified social norms and awarding suitable penalties. Sports
organisations take over the organising tasks thus freeing up the players
to concentrate on playing.

 C. Can organisations pass on memories and experience to people? Again the
answer seems to be 'yes'. In fact, some organisations are created mainly
for the purpose of passing on experience, e.g., educational organisations.

 D. Can organisations be influenced by ideology and value systems? Again
'yes'. Political organisations are the most obvious examples. All other
types of organisation seem to allow various ideologies to influence them,
including the ideology of 'free thinking'.

 E. Can two (or more) organisations interact the way two (or more) people
can? 'Yes.' They either get into a mutually supportive mode, parent-child
mode, or even an exploitative mode, etc., much as we would expect in the
human world.

 F. Can organisations be short-sighted and consume their own future as
well as the future of the people they consist of and the societies of
which they are a part? Clearly 'Yes.' Organisations can destroy
shareholders' value, employees and customers' health, the natural
environment, society's evolutionary potential by taking away resources
from some (e.g., those who are less efficient today), etc.

 G. Can organisations learn? Of course this is the moot point. Some tend
to see this as a philosophical question (i.e., in the sense that one might
have a 'strong point of view'). I am sure, some of you will appreciate
that philosophical questions arise when language goes on holiday (this
point of view is originally attributed to Wittgenstein)! I found an
interesting linguistic twist on this question in an article by Roger
Martin some years back: ** If 'learning organizations' are not possible,
we must still act as if they were. ** [Source: Roger Martin (1993).
"Changing the Mind of the Corporation". Harvard Business Review, Boston,
Nov-Dec 1993 Vol. 71, No.6, p 81-94.]


Dr. D. P. Dash


"D P Dash" <>

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