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The importance of organizational learning for organizational sustainability

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Purpose ‐ This Special Issue is intended to heighten awareness of the importance of organizational learning in addressing the demands of organizational sustainability, and in particular triple bottom line (TBL) sustainability. A definition of TBL sustainability is provided, together with an exploration of the practical issues relevant to adopting organizational learning in addressing it. By exploring research and practitioner viewpoints bearing on sustainability-related applications of organizational learning, this Special Issue aims to help organizations remove barriers to achieving sustainability goals and catalyze the progress for an organization on its sustainability journey. Design/methodology/approach ‐ General sustainability-related concerns and challenges associated with organizational learning are reviewed, and individual authors voice their understanding of the application of organizational leaning to particular aspects of sustainability based on their research, their case studies, and the extant literature. Findings ‐ Findings include enhanced understanding of the incompatibility of single- and double loop learning in TBL sustainability contexts, and the required emphasis on double-loop learning to progress sustainability aims successfully. The effectiveness of dialogic interaction is described in achieving a transition towards sustainability in people, organizations and society as a whole. How individual worldviews called "our ecological selves" allow creation of the conditions for confronting global environmental challenges is explained. Contributions are made to the understanding of hybrid organizations through the case of a Brazilian networked organization, and a paradox view of management based on the theories of organizational learning and managerial cybernetics is applied to enlighten the understanding of sustainability. The learning and adaptive system of the US commercial aviation industry is explored and the application of such a system in an organization operating according to triple bottom line sustainability principles is described. Originality/value ‐ The opinions and research presented provide new and unique understanding of how organizational learning may contribute to organizational sustainability. Further value is added via the assessment of means to progress the sustainability ideal, the identification of barriers, and the many practical examples of means to facilitate progress toward that ideal.
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Keywords: Dialogic interaction; Ecological selves; Hybrid organization; Learning and adaptive system; Organizational learning; Organizations; Paradox; Sustainable development; TBL sustainability

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 6, 2012

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