Diversity of experience, education, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, expertise, and opinion can aid any organization in attempting to understand the environmental changes in organization’s own way. Learning in an organization means the continuous testing of experience, and the transformation of that experience into knowledge- accessible to the whole organization, and relevant to its core purpose. So, different types Of experiences and psychologies cause different types of adaptation.
Organizational learning comes from the ability of organizational actors to relate experience and information to routines and problems (Arises and Chon 1996, 16; Mailer 1997, 519). We follow Bergen Borer’s and Washman’s definition of organizational learning as”the development of knowledge held by organizational members, that is being accepted as knowledge and is applicable in organizational activities, therewith implying a (potential) change in those activities” (2003, 1042).
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The four Stages of the Learning Cycle for Management and Organizations Kola identified 4 distinct learning styles based on a 4 stage learning cycle on which management and Organizations could learn (1984). Each stage of the learning cycle uses a different approach to learning: Concrete Experience(CE) Learn by doing and acting Reflective Observation(OR) Assimilate through observing and reflecting. Abstract Conceptualization(AC)Develop concepts through thinking and reflection. Active Experimentation(AWE) Plan to test new concepts by doing and moving towards the CE stage cycle again.
Figure 1: Kola’s Learning Styles(Kola March 2006) The learning styles preference itself is actually the product of two pairs of variables or two separate choices Concrete Experience- CE (feeling) Vs.. Abstract Conceptualization -AC (Thinking) Active Experimentation – AWE (Doing ) Vs.. Reflective Observation OR (watching) A typical presentation of Kolas two continuous shown in Figurer above is that the east west axis is called the processing continuum (how we approach a task) and the North and south axis is called the perception continuum (our emotional response or how we feel about it) We call these patterned ways “learning styles. Four Basic Learning Styles for Management and Organizations The following sis summary of the four basic learning styles (Kola, 1984). Diverging. The Diverging style’s dominant learning abilities are Concrete Experience (CE) and Reflective Observation (OR). Managers with this learning style are best at viewing concrete situations from many different points of view. It is labeled “Diverging” because a person with it performs better in situations that call for enervation of ideas, such as a “brainstorming” session.
People with a Diverging learning style have broad cultural interests and like to gather information. Research shows that they are interested in people, tend to be imaginative and emotional, have broad cultural interests, and tend to specialize in the arts. In formal learning situations, people with the Diverging style prefer to work in groups, listening with an open mind and receiving personalized feedback. Assimilating. The Assimilating style’s dominant learning abilities are Abstract Conceptualization (AC) and Reflective Observation (OR).
Managers with this learning style are best at understanding a wide range of information and putting into concise, logical form. Individuals with an Assimilating style are less focused on people and more interested in ideas and abstract concepts. Generally, people with this style find it more important that a theory have logical soundness than practical value. The Assimilating learning style is important for effectiveness in information and science careers. In formal learning situations, people with this style prefer readings, lectures, exploring analytical models, and having time to think wings through.
Converging. The Converging style’s dominant learning abilities are Abstract Conceptualization (AC) and Active Experimentation (AWE). Managers with this learning style are best at finding practical uses for ideas and theories. They have the ability to solve problems and make decisions based on finding solutions to questions or problems. Individuals with a Converging learning style prefer to deal with technical tasks and problems rather than with social issues and interpersonal issues. These learning skills are important for effectiveness in specialist and technology careers.
In formal learning situations, people with this style prefer to experiment with new ideas, simulations, laboratory assignments, and practical applications. Accommodating. The Accommodating style’s dominant learning abilities are Concrete Experience (CE) and Active Experimentation (AWE). Managers with this learning style have the ability to learn from primarily “hand-on” experience. They enjoy carrying out plans and involving themselves in new and challenging experiences. Their tendency may be to act on “gut” feelings rather than on logical analysis. In solving problems, individuals with an
Accommodating learning style rely more heavily on people for information than on their own technical analysis. This learning style is important for effectiveness in action-oriented careers such as marketing or sales. In formal learning situations, people with the Accommodating learning style prefer to work with others to get assignments done, to set goals, to do field work, and to test out different approaches to completing a project. Factors that Shape and Influence Learning Styles The above patterns of behavior associated with the four basic learning styles are shown consistently at various levels of behavior.
During the last three decades researchers have examined the characteristics of learning styles at five particular levels of behavior: Personality types, early educational specialization, professional career, current job role, and adaptive competencies. Personality Types. Kola follows Carl Jung in recognizing that learning styles result from individuals’ preferred ways for adapting in the world. Accommodating learning style is the Extroverted Sensing type, and the Converging style the Extroverted Thinking type.
The Assimilating learning style corresponds to the Introverted Intuitive personality type and the Diverging Tyler to the Introverted Feeling type. (C. G Jung, Psychology Types 921) Educational Specialization. Early educational experiences shape people’s individual learning styles by instilling positive attitudes toward specific sets of learning skills and by teaching students how to learn. This specialization in the realms of social knowledge influences individuals’ orientations toward learning, resulting to particular relations between learning styles and early training in an educational specialty Or discipline.
Managers with undergraduate majors in the Arts, History, Political science, English, and Psychology tend to have Diverging learning styles, while those majoring in more abstract and applied areas like Physical Sciences and Engineering have Converging learning styles. Managers with Accommodating styles have educational backgrounds in Business and Management, and those with Assimilating styles in Economics, Mathematics, Sociology, and Chemistry. Professional Career Choice. A third set of factors that shape learning styles stems from professional careers.
A manager’s professional career choice not only exposes one to a specialized learning environment, but it also involves a ointment to a generic professional problem, such as social service, that requires a specialized adaptive orientation. In addition, one becomes a member of a reference group of peers who share a professional mentality, and a common set of values and beliefs about how one should behave professionally. This professional orientation shapes learning style through habits acquired in professional training and through the more immediate normative pressures involved in being a competent professional.
Current Job Role. The fourth level of factors influencing learning style is the Managers rent job role. The task demands and pressures of a job shape a manager’s adaptive orientation. Executive jobs, such as general management, that require a strong orientation to task accomplishment and decision making in uncertain emergent circumstances require an Accommodating learning style. Personal jobs, such as counseling and personnel administration, that require the establishment of personal relationships and effective communication with other people demand a Diverging learning style.
Information jobs, such as planning and research, that require data gathering and analysis, as well as ancestral modeling, have an Assimilating learning style requirement. Technical jobs, such as bench engineering and production that require technical and problem-solving skills require a convergent learning orientation. Adaptive competencies. The fifth and most immediate level of forces that shapes learning style is the specific task or problem a manager is currently working on. Each task we face requires a corresponding set of skills for effective performance.
The effective matching of task demands and personal skills results in an adaptive competence. The Accommodative learning style encompasses a set of competencies that can best be termed Acting skills: Leadership, Initiative, and Action. The Diverging learning style is associated with Valuing skills: Relationship, Helping others, and Sense-making. The Assimilating learning style is related to Thinking skills: Information-gathering, Information-analysis, and Theory building. Finally, the Converging learning style is associated with Decision skills like Quantitative Analysis, use of Technology, and Goal-setting (Kola, 1984).
In the mid sass’s Peter Honey and Alan Uniform adapted David Kola’s model of Experiential Learning for use tit a group of middle and senior managers. They published their version of the model in The Manual of Learning Styles in 1982 and Using Your Learning Styles in 1983. Honey and Uniform’s model re-designed Kola’s model to fit in with managerial experiences of decision making and problem solving. In their version the stages of experiential learning are: 1. Having an experience 2. Reviewing the experience 3. Concluding from the experience 4. Planning the next steps.
Managerial Learning Styles according to Honey and Uniform From their model, Honey and Uniform suggested that there were four types f learner based on where people’s natural preferences were on the four stages. Honey and Uniform called them Activist, Reflector, Theorist and Pragmatist and defined them as follows: a. Activists: those who like to immerse themselves fully in new experiences and who act first and consider consequences later. B. Reflectors: those who like to stand back and observe and who tend to be cautious until they have all the facts. . Theorists: those who like to think through problems in a logical manner; keen on basic assumptions, principles, theories, models and Systems thinking. D. Pragmatists: those who like to put theories into practice and who are impatient with long-winded discussion. A Practical Model to be used One of the key recommendations by Honey and Uniform was that managers should use the model to identify those stages of learning where they could improve rather than stick to the one style they preferred.