Today's business leaders must always know what their stakeholders are thinking--be they customers, employees, constituents, or competitors--and act upon that information in a timely and appropriate manner. How companies collect, decipher, and utilize this knowledge, in fact, may be the real determinant of their long-term viability. Harvard Business School professor David A. Garvin's Learning in Action authoritatively dissects these activities as practiced by so-called learning organizations, then clearly outlines the steps necessary to build one of them. "Sweeping metaphors and grand themes are far less helpful than the knowledge of how individuals and organizations learn on a daily basis," Garvin writes. "The key to success is mastery of the details, coupled with a command of the levers that shape behavior." His book's core offers a practical examination of the three primary routes to corporate learning: collecting intelligence from outside sources (via interview and observation, for example); accumulating data through targeted actions (such as postproject reviews and special programs); and experimenting with alternative outcomes by manipulating variables (including prototype creation and exploratory design testing). Combining research from myriad fields, detailed studies of successful models such as Xerox and the U.S. Army, and snapshots of specific practices at additional firms such as Intel and Wal-Mart, he succeeds in providing "a broad, integrated view of the topic that is grounded in scholarship." --Howard Rothman
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Most managers today understand the value of building a learning organization. Their goal is to leverage knowledge and make it a key corporate asset, yet they remain uncertain about how best to get started. What they lack are guidelines and tools that transform abstract theory - the learning organization as an ideal - into hands-on implementation. For the first time in "Learning in Action", David Garvin helps managers make the leap from theory to proven practice. Garvin argues that at the heart of organizational learning lies a set of processes that can be designed, deployed, and led. He starts by describing the basic steps in every learning process-acquiring, interpreting, and applying knowledge-then examines the critical challenges facing managers at each of these stages and the various ways the challenges can be met.Drawing on decades of scholarship and a wealth of examples from a wide range of fields, Garvin next introduces three modes of learning - intelligence gathering, experience, and experimentation - and shows how each mode is most effectively deployed.
These approaches are brought to life in complete, richly detailed case studies of learning in action at organizations such as Xerox, L. L. Bean, the U. S. Army, and GE. The book concludes with a discussion of the leadership role that senior executives must play to make learning a day-to-day reality in their organizations.