42: Carnegie Mellon Series #5 – Organizational Learning

James March

Welcome to Season 5! In this episode, we discuss Barbara Levitt and James G. March’s article “Organizational Learning,” published in the 1988 edition of the Annual Review of Sociology. Although the authors hailed from Stanford University in California, we have included this episode in our Carnegie-Mellon Series because of James March’s involvement and perspectives on organization that clearly influenced the article.

This work was a literature review across various streams in organizational learning up through the 1980s. Topics include learning from experience, organizational memory, ecologies of learning, and organizational intelligence. Of particular interest is how organizational learning was defined as not an outcome but a process of translating the cumulative experiences of individuals and codifying them as routines within the organization. From this, the authors applied the brain metaphor – such as memory and intelligence – to explain the phenomenon (listen to Episode 41 on Morgan’s Images of Organization for more on this metaphor). Did all the podcasters agree with the use of the metaphor? How well has the construct of organizational learning, as described by the authors, held up over the past three decades?

Do you agree with the idea that organizational learning is a process, and not an outcome? In other words, do organizations really learn? Listen as the podcasters tackle these and many other questions as they review this insightful article.

You may also download the audio files here:  Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 

Read with us:

Levitt, Barbara, and James G. March. Organizational learning.” Annual review of sociology 14.1 (1988): 319-338.

Also see:

Episode 41 on Gareth Morgan’s Images of Organization regarding Levitt & March’s use of the brain metaphor.