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Sustainability, organizational learning, and lessons learned from aviation

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Purpose ‐ While the importance of organizational learning for sustainability has been stressed by a number of authors in the literature, the practicalities of how organizational leaders might foster such learning are seldom treated. This paper seeks to demonstrate that there is much that could be learned from the aviation industry about organizational learning practice that could be gainfully applied by organizations in attempting to address the demands of triple bottom line sustainability. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The exemplary safety record of the US commercial aviation industry is explored in this paper, and the principal functions of its underlying learning and adaptive system are reviewed. Generalized application of such a learning and adaptive system in an organization operating according to triple bottom line sustainability principles is described. Findings ‐ Through the interaction of various functional components described in the paper, the commercial aviation industry has created a learning and adaptation support system that has significantly and effectively increased air travel safety. The characteristics of such a learning and adaptive system can be employed by any organization to vastly improve its performance as it pursues triple bottom line sustainability. Originality/value ‐ The learning and adaptive system approach presented expands the steps of understanding, creating and delivering triple bottom line sustainability by changing internal processes, organizational learning, and employee mindsets.
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Keywords: Aviation industry; Learning organizations; Organizational learning; Practical application; Sustainable development; Triple bottom line sustainability; Value added

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 6, 2012

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