Management and the Learning Process

by David Kolb



Today's highly successful manager or administrator is distinguished not so much by any single set of knowledge or skills but by his ability to adapt to and master the changing demands of his job and career by his ability to learn. The same is true for successful organizations. Continuing success in a changing world requires an ability to explore new opportunities and learn from past successes and failures. These ideas are neither new nor particularly controversial. Yet it is surprising that this ability to learn, which is so widely regarded as important, receives so little explicit attention from managers and their organizations. Learning is conceived of a four stage cycle. Immediate concrete experience is the basis for observation and reflection. These observations are assimilated into a theory from which new implications for action can be deduced. These implications or hypotheses then serve as guides in acting to create new experiences. Like individuals, organizations learn and develop distinctive learning styles. They do so through their transactions with the environment and through their choice of how to relate to that environment. This has come to be known as the "open systems" view of organizations. Since many organizations are large and complex, the environment they relate to becomes highly differentiated and diverse.

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