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The Implications of Learning Organization Theory & Practices to Career Development

By Xiaoying (Lindsay) Ye

In terms of career development, from its motive to practices in building a meaningful and successful career, either it is for a student at school, or a mid-career professional to senior executive, I found the learning organization theory and its practices quite relevant, and could serve as guiding theory and tool if we understand the learning organization theory and know how to apply it into our daily practices to achieve the career development goal of our desire.

Learning organization theory was first brought by Peter Senge, a MIT lecturer in 1990 in his first published book ‘The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization’. Senge popularized the concept of the ‘learning organization’ by bringing it to the forefront of management thinking. To Senge, learning organization is a place where: “… people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together.

In an environment of rapid change and competition, Senge argues, only those organizations that have the flexibility and skills to adapt will survive – and to outperform the competition, organizations must gain the commitment of all employees, no matter what their level, and nurture their capacity to learn. Learning organizations and the people in them learn constantly from everything they do, and knowledge could come from anywhere rather than just top down.

According to Senge, five disciplines must be mastered when introducing learning into an organization and to be converging to innovate learning organizations. Among which, personal mastery – begins “by becoming committed to lifelong learning” and mental models are particularly important for Individuals who aspire to build a solid career by practicing discipline and possessing certain traits. While the other 3 disciplines such as building shared visions, team learning and systems thinking more apply to learning and development initiatives from the perspective of human capital management of corporation. Nowadays many corporates have started their own corporate universities in fostering employee learning and development. Google as a IT/Tech company of huge success, is a good example of adopting a learning culture and fostering innovation in the organization. Google programmers are encouraged to take 20% of their work time on projects which are of their personal interests, and they also believe their work brings equal access to information to millions of people’s lives.

The learning organization theory provides a fresh perspective on individual career development as well as revolutionary impact on corporate. Steve Jobs, the ex-CEO of Apple and Pixar, once encouraged Stanford graduates to “stay hungry, stay foolish” in his 2005 speech, summarizes no better the gist of how one can develop one’s career by keeping learning, as knowledge is from everywhere.



Xiaoying (Lindsay) Ye is currently doing her Master of Management program at Odette School of Business, University of Windsor, with a focus on Human Resources Management. Prior to this, Lindsay has gained years of experience working on executive search at global search firms in Beijing, China helping client organizations in fulfilling strategic leadership team recruitment. 

Lucie Morillon
Lucie Morillon is the Bilingual Content & Communications Co-ordinator for CERIC. With a passion for quality content, she connects with her online communities and provides strong resources to engage members – and always encourages new ones to get involved. She identifies, creates and curates the content destined for the ContactPoint website, the weekly CareerWise newsletter and Careering magazine.

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