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All individuals learn- whether they do it consciously or unconsciously. It is a
fundamental requirement of existence. Individual learning is defined as the
capacity to build knowledge through individual reflection about external
stimuli and sources, and through the personal re-elaboration of individual
knowledge and experience in light of interaction with others and the

Prof David Merrill asserts:
"... the social context of a learning environment may provide support for its
members, nevertheless the change in cognitive structure and the acquisition
of knowledge and skill is and individual event."

Here, we refer individual learning in the context of organization. In other
words it implies that How an individual learns in an organization and how is it
important in an organization.


Following section deals with the various models and theories coined by
different pshycologists explaining how an individual learns.

Theory of Learning Cycle (By David Kolb)
In order to learn from an experience, you have to go through the learning
cycle. David Kolb stated that for true learning to take place, we need to
have an experience, reflect upon the experience, make sense of it and
finally apply our theories to our lives by planning what we would do next
time we were in the same or similar situation. Learning is inhibited when a
learner misses one of Kolb’s stages.

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Fig: Four Stages of

Based on Kolbs learning Cycle, Peter honey and Alan Mumford made an
attempt to classify individuals into four groups based on their learning

Activist: People who learn through doing and prefer activity based
development. They do not effectively, respond well to lectures or highly
reflective activity.. they prefer to learn through involving excercises,
problems, tasks etc…

Reflector: Reflectors are people who enjoy reviewing and considering
situations and events.In groups they observe and reflect rather than
actively join or lead the discussion. They feel uncomfortable if they are
put into limelight without prior warning.

Theorist: Theorist like to know theories behind a piece of learning, they
prefer to learn from research, data, models and information. They like
Logic and are rational and analytical in a leaning situation. They will be
uncomfortable with high emotion and feelings.

Pragmatist: They prefer practicality to theory and learn effectively when
they are able to apply the learning to the situation and the real world.
They seek out new ideas and want to try them out drawing links between
the subject and their current jobs.

Thus based on the learning styles of the individuals an appropriate
learning method must be designed for every individual.

Theory of Competence:
This theory states that learning is a four stage process, which involves the
journey from unconscious incompetence to unconscious competence.

1. Unconscious incompetence: The individual neither understands nor
knows how to do something, nor recognizes the deficit, nor has a
desire to address it.
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2. Conscious incompetence: Though the individual does not
understand or know how to do something, he or she does recognize
the deficit, without yet addressing it.

3. Conscious competence: The individual understands or knows how to
do something. However, demonstrating the skill or knowledge requires
a great deal of consciousness or concentration.

4. Unconscious competence: The individual has had so much practice
with a skill that it becomes "second nature" and can be performed
easily (often without concentrating too deeply). He or she may or may
not be able to teach it to others, depending upon how and when it was

Theory of Multiple Intelligencies (By: Howard Gardener)

The theory of multiple intelligences suggests that there are a number
of distinct forms of intelligence that each individual possesses in
varying degrees. Gardner proposes seven primary forms: linguistic,
musical, logical-mathematical, spatial, body-kinesthetic, intrapersonal
(e.g., insight, metacognition) and interpersonal (e.g., social skills).

The implication of the theory is that learning/teaching should focus on
the particular intelligences of each person. For example, if an individual
has strong spatial or musical intelligences, they should be encouraged
to develop these abilities.

Modes of Learning (D. Rumelhart & D. Norman)
There are three modes of learning: accretion, structuring and tuning.
Accretion is the addition of new knowledge to existing memory.
Structuring involves the formation of new conceptual structures or
schema. Tuning is the adjustment of knowledge to a specific task
usually through practice. Accretion is the most common form of
learning; structuring occurs much less frequently and requires
considerable effort; tuning is the slowest form of learning and accounts
for expert performance.

Theory of Cognitive Dissonance (By Leon Festinger)

According to cognitive dissonance theory, there is a tendency for
individuals to seek consistency among their cognitions (i.e., beliefs,
opinions). When there is an inconsistency between attitudes or
behaviors (dissonance), something must change to eliminate the
dissonance. In the case of a discrepancy between attitudes and
behavior, it is most likely that the attitude will change to accommodate
the behavior.
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After understanding various theories related to individual learning, it is per se
necessary to also understand concept of Organizational learning.

Individual learning & Organizational Learning
The concept of learning organization has two important elements: individual
learning; and organizational learning and transformation. Individual learning
alone is not sufficient for a learning organization, it must be used to create
organizational learning.

Individual Learning in the Workplace
All individuals have the capacity to learn, given sufficient time and
support. It is impossible for organizations to invest continually in one
person’s development without seeing the return on that investment. An
essential aspect in the learning organization is the way in which the
organization seeks to improve the capacity of individuals to recognize and
take advantage of learning opportunities. Individual learning in the
workplace will be adult learning. And adult learning is influenced by
organizational context. Recently, there has been a shift towards viewing
learning as a continuous lifelong activity which is focused on the learner,
who has increasing responsibility for his own development. The benefits of
learning for individuals are as follows (Allan, 1999):

• Learning is the key to developing a person’s potential

• Learning to learn is the key to effective learning

• Learning enables the individuals to meet the demands of change

• The capacity to learn is an asset that never becomes obsolete

• Embracing learning helps the individual to acknowledge that
learning is more than formal education and training

According to Giesecke and McNeil (1999), effective individual learning
does not necessarily result in a learning organization. Rather, individual
learning needs to lead to behavioral changes that clearly improve
organizational performance. And the results of learning must become a
part of the organizational culture and processes.

Organizational Learning
Organizational learning is concerned with the development of new
knowledge or insights that have the potential to influence behavior. It
takes place within the wide institutional context of inter organizational
relationships and 'refers broadly to an organization's acquisition of
understanding, know how, techniques and practices of any kind and by
any means. Organizational learning examines how in this context
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individual and team learning can be translated into an organizational
resource and is therefore linked to processes of knowledge management.

Organizational learning Vs. Learning organization
“Learning organization” implies an Organization which needs to
continuously learn to survive, that learning at operational, policy and
strategic levels needs to be conscious, continuous and integrated. Thus
Learning organization can be defined as “one '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 how to
learn together'.

While individual learning is very important and underpins the
development of employees, team learning appears to be a prerequisite
for organizational learning as it enables the learning from individuals to be
shared and refined.

Organizational learning can take place at two levels:

• Single Loop learning, It is about dealing with the problems or
symptoms of a situation rather than the underlying causes. In
simple words, It is about ‘Doing things right’.

• Double Loop Learning, examines the underlying cause of a
situation which may lead to a review of the organization’s
assumptions and goals. ‘It is about doing the right things.’

Relationship between Individual Learning and Organizational
Organizational learning occurs when individuals, within an organization,
experience a problematic situation and inquire into it on the
organization’s behalf. In order to become organizational, the learning that
results from organizational inquiry must become embedded in the images
of organization held in its members’ minds. Just like an individual, if an
organization is successful in embedding new learnings into its
organizational patterns, it is able to develop new capacities for learning
and establish a new equilibrium.

The Move from Training And Development To Learning And
Organizations need good people who can perform effectively in their job.
In the workplace , employees are required to adapt and respond to the
changes quickly and without loss of productivity. Learning needs to be
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continuous because of the pace of change and therefore it can no longer
be the sole responsibility of the HR or training department; individuals
and their managers must be involved and take the share of identifying
learning needs and ensuring everyone is appropriately skilled to achieve
business goals and objectives.

We need to understand the meaning of ‘learning’,’training’ and

Training is an instructor-led, content-based intervention leading to desired
changes in behavior.

Learning is the process of increasing knowledge and skills and developing
our attitudes or beliefs so that we have the opportunity for increased
Development is the process of growth and learning, resulting in change or

Learning and development within organizations is not going to be delivered
unless there is a development need. The various factors that will create a
development need are:

1. Imposed Change: change that happens within an organization
( whether internally or externally driven) and leads to a need for
different skills knowledge and behaviors to be demonstrated.

2. Performance Review: development needs that arise as a result of
reviewing current performance against standards and results(actual or

3. Personal Motivation: when an individual decides to enhance their
knowledge and skills or alter their behavior in order to achieve
personal goals, which may be to achieve a promotion, take on a
different career, increase their happiness or make other significant life

Methods Of Learning
• Action learning
Action learning is based on the premise that learning will take place
when existing knowledge is applied to a problem through the use of
questioning. It is more than learning by doing because it involves all
aspects of the learning cycle, including the reflection about what
has been learnt ,internalization of the learning and its application to
the situation at hand.

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• Coaching
The process of helping people enhance or improve their
performance through reflection on how they apply a specific skill
and/or knowledge to a specific situation, thus resulting in an
improvement in performance.

• Discussion Boards and Groups
Discussion groups are an opportunity to share knowledge and
experiences. There is no formal hierarchy in discussion groups and
each member can contribute as they feel able, rather worry about
being judged by senior members of their organization.

• Mentoring
It is a process of helping an individual enhance or improve a specific
skill in order to improve performance. Mentoring is a formal or
informal relationship between senior and junior employees for the
purpose of supporting learning and development. The mentor
provides ongoing support, advice, and career direction to an

• On-the-job training
It is a structured training that takes place in the workplace. It is
highly valid and relevant to the learner as it occurs in a real
environment and provides the learner with a realistic experience
and opportunity to apply or transfer their learning straightaway. It
can be very useful for managerial training which is often delivered
via formal off-the-job courses.

• Job rotation
Job Rotation is a career development strategy where an individual
temporarily moves laterally into an established or "shadow" position. An
employee may complete a series of Job Rotations.

• Self-study
It is a learning which is self-directed. The learners takes
responsibility for their own learning and for the methods they
choose to use. Self study is often prompted by a specific need. It
encourages self-development and self-reliance and can help
individuals to learn and to value their own resources.

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Assessment of Learning Impact
It is necessary to assess the learning developments of the individual and its
impact on the organization. This can be done with many of the available

Validation measures the achievement of learning . Pre-event validation
ensures that the learning objectives for the activity are a true reflection of
the needs identified. Post event evaluation checks whether learning has
occurred and whether the learning objectives have been achieved.

Evaluation measures the overall cost benefit of the programme and not just
the achievement of laid down objectives. It has three stages:

1. Performance: Measures the effect of a learning experience on the
individuals work/life depending on the purpose of the programme. It is
essential to know what the performance was before the program, so
that the changes can be measured. Changes in performance can be
measured by quantitative data such as the number of errors or items
produced; or through observation where changes in behaviour can be

2. Impact on organization: Before a programme is planned, its impact
on the organization should be assessed . It may take some time for the
learner to transfer their learning and use in the real world.
Measurement should take place over a period of time. It is useful to
have pre development data to compare.

3. Return on investment: it is a cost benefit analysis. It states how
much the development has cost against the returns for the
organizations. Many benefits of development cannot be measured
whereas cost of any development can be easily measured.


The SEW-EURODRIVE India Pvt. Ltd, a manufacturing firm faced by the
problem of shortage in leadership skills. Thus its basic objective was to take
the Organization to the next orbit of business performance and to build a
cohesive senior team.

To achieve a higher level of individual learning, the firm implemented WLDP TM
(Wholesome leadership Development Process). It involved a set of processes
starting with identification of competencies of the employee using 360°
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feedback and MBIT. It also involved identification of competencies required
for a leader and understanding the business. Based on strengths of
employees and required competencies, learning modules were developed.
Learning was not only focused on leadership development but also extended
to individual learning objectives. Employees had to undertake two projects to
expose them to self-learning as they get chance to work in a group. The firm
adopted learning strategies like mentoring, Coaching, Group learning, Self-
learning, Action learning, discussion board.

The visible results of the programme were improved leadership
competencies, enhanced team spirit, good team behavior, etc... It also made
employees more committed and engaged.

In order to remain competitive, many other global firms like Motorola,
moulded every employee as a change agent and thought leader. They have
done this by building a culture of constant learning and development. As
Charles Darwin famously remarked, "It is not the strongest of the species
that will survive, or the most intelligent. It is the one most adaptable to

 The electronics and telecom major Motorola, has been globally
recognized for its learning culture and innovative training practices. It
has set up the Motorola University to meet all its training needs. It
focuses on holistic learning, and the university continuously revises its
curriculum based on participant inputs, global benchmarking and
changing strategic requirements.

 The pediatric care centre, Miami Children's Hospital, Florida, is
internationally renowned as one of the few service sector organisations
to innovate in the field of organizational learning. At the hospital, it is
mandatory for all new patient-care staff to undergo six-month family-
centered training. The training methodology includes role playing to
sensitize staff to the needs of young patients. Each learning
intervention is consciously aligned to the hospital's mission of excelling
in family-centered healthcare.

Every employee is a veritable island of knowledge, and the organization
must integrate these isolated pockets to channelize individual learning
towards achieving its larger strategic objectives. At the same time, it cannot
afford to lose focus on the individual's personal development. This balancing

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act has by far been the biggest challenge for the human resource function in
the context of the knowledge economy


Easter and Smith Mark ..Handbook of Organizational learning and

Jackie Clifford & Sara Thorpe ..Workplace learning and development –
Delivering competitive advantage for your organization
Sherry Shiuan Su..Individual Learning And Organizational Learning In Academic

Kim, Daniel H..The link between Individual and organizational learning; Sloan
management review

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