Our Founding Discipline LO20402

Sun, 17 Jan 1999 10:01:42 EST

Replying to LO20353 --

What was the genesis of the aphorism "give a man an inch and he'll take a

To consider the origin of a popular saying, a construct, a field of study
or discipline, or social movement is an intriguing undertaking.

So too to talk about the founding discipline of "organizational
learning" (OL vs. LO).

I am not sure of the date of Easterby-Smith' s "seminal paper" but would
appreciate if Jens Kolind would let us know.

As far as I know:

First reference to the notion of OL: Simon, 1953, Public Administration

First paper title which contains the words OL: Cangelosi & Dill, 1965,
Administrative Science Quarterly.

First book title which contains the words OL: Argyris & Schon, 1978.

The emphasis on systems thinking in OL/LO work did not occur until MIT
researchers confronted resistance in trying to get firms to use systems
modeling and systems dynamics(Jay Forester et alii). When such training
did not take hold in companies, they (quite naturally) viewed the
resistance problem from a systems perspective which led them to OL/LO.
However, this did not occur until the mid 1980s. (To our host: Perhaps
Rick Karash would like to comment on this history given his involvement
with it.)

Since the initial conceptualization of OL, scholars and practitioners from
many disciplines have confronted the OL challenge. For this reason the
field is conceptually rich and confusing all at the same time. It is my
belief (and hope) that we will make progress in understanding OL and
creating conditions in organizations that foster it when we bring together
this richness into some integrated theory. If not, we will fail to move
beyond what we (and the disciplines we were trained in) each now know and
practice in and about OL/LO.


Tony DiBella
co-author, "How Organizations Learn"



Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <rkarash@karash.com> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <http://www.learning-org.com>