Difference Between Organizational Learning and Learning Organization

The key difference between organizational learning and learning organization is that organizational learning focuses on learning by experience and knowledge gathered from day to day activities whereas Learning Organization focuses on learnings to enhance competencies and capabilities of employees. Also, we can consider organizational learning as a process, and learning organization as a structure.

Organizations come across many methods to improve organizational performances in terms of effective and efficient solutions. At the same time, organizations face a lot of threats such as economic failures, competition, and unintended organizational changes, which lead to the downfall of organizational performance. Within such a context, two concepts of organizational learning and learning organization help to uplift organization performance.


1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is Organizational Learning 
3. What is Learning Organization
4. Relationship Between Organizational Learning and Learning Organization
5. Side by Side Comparison – Organizational Learning vs Learning Organization in Tabular Form
6. Summary

What is Organizational Learning?

Organizational learning can be described as learning based on detection and corrections. It is more likely a reactive approach. For instance, it can be a learning or solution finding due to a drastic change in an organization.

There are four concepts to build up Organizational Learning. They are knowledge acquisition, information distribution, information interpretation, and organizational memory. Organizational learning concept does not evaluate the effectiveness of learner or the potential of the learner. Moreover, there won’t be any change in the behaviour patterns of the learner.

When talking about business situations, political, economic and social environment in the contemporary world, we can see a lot of drastic changes within organizations, which create uncertain situations in every moment. As a result of these circumstances, there is a greater need for learning within the organization in diversified areas.

Basically, organizational learning is the ability of an organization to gain vision and understanding from experience through experimentation, analysis, observation, and a willingness to examine both success and failure.

What is Learning Organization?

Learning Organization can be described as letting employees to improve their skills, capacity and competencies within the organization through different aspects like knowledge sharing, capacity building, etc.

Learning organizations continuously develop its down the line cadre through facilitating training and evaluating their capabilities. To a certain extent, learning organizations are performance oriented. Further, they drive towards their objective achievements and evaluative methodological tools that can help to identify, promote and evaluate the quality of learning processes within the organization.

The managerial role of a learning organization is to develop their subordinates. Further, in most of the organizations, the manager should develop a successor in order to replace a manager’s role in a contingency situation. Learning organization is more likely a proactive approach.

Basically, learning organization is the ability of an organization to improve capacities and competency of the members within the organization in order to improve organizational performance.

What is the Relationship Between Organizational Learning and Learning Organization?

Learning brings competitiveness and flexibility to an organization. In order to cope up with challenging situations in business, competencies like technical expertise, quick decision making, analysing business situation are very much required. Through Learning organizations, employees continuously practice these skills; in an organizational learning culture, these skills are gathered through experience in order to tackle a difficult business situation. However, both concepts are very important for sustainable competitive advantage.

What is the Difference Between Organizational Learning and Learning Organization?

Organizational learning is a process where employees act based on experience and knowledge they gather by day to day activities to handle various business situations. On the contrary, learning organization is inbuilt within the organization structure where employees are continuously developed to improve their capacities and capabilities to handle business situations. So, this is the key difference between organizational learning and learning organization.

Another difference between organizational learning and learning organization is that organizational learning concept focuses more on outcomes and achievements, whereas learning organization concept focuses more on processes and purposes.  In addition, organizational learning culture leans towards objective setting and achievement of objectives, whereas learning organization culture is more performance-based.

The following table summarizes the difference between organizational learning and learning organization.

Summary – Organizational Learning vs Learning Organization

Organizational learning focuses on learning by experience and knowledge employees gather from day to day activities. Learning Organization, in contrast, focuses on enhancing the competencies and capabilities of employees.  So, this is the key difference between Organizational learning and Learning Organization. Further, organizational learning is a process, whereas learning organization is a structure.


1. “Is Your Agency A Learning Organization?” EMS World, 14 Nov. 2011, Available here.

Image Courtesy:

1. “Organizational Learning and KM” By Binesh Jose – Own work (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Commons Wikimedia
2. “3368049” (CC0) via Pixabay