Differentiation and integration in organizational learning

A garbage can model

Sangyoon Yi, Nils Stieglitz, Thorbjørn Knudsen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review

Abstract

In this study, the authors unpack the micro-level processes of knowledge accumulation (experiential learning) and knowledge application (problem solving) to examine how task allocation structures influence organizational learning. The authors draw on untapped potential of the classical garbage can model (GCM), and extend it to analyze how restrictions on project participation influence differentiation and integration of organizational members’ knowledge and consequently organizational efficiency in solving the diverse, changing problems from an uncertain task environment. To isolate the effects of problem or knowledge diversity and experiential learning, the authors designed three simulation experiments to identify the most efficient task allocation structure in conditions of (1) knowledge homogeneity, (2) knowledge heterogeneity, and (3) experiential learning. The authors find that free project participation is superior when the members’ knowledge and the problems they solve are homogenous. When problems and knowledge are heterogeneous, the design requirement is on matching specialists to problem types. Finally, the authors found that experiential learning creates a dynamic problem where the double duty of adapting the members’ specialization and matching the specialists to problem types is best solved by a hierarchic structure (if problems are challenging). Underlying the efficiency of the hierarchical structure is an adaptive role of specialized members in organizational learning and problem solving: their narrow but deep knowledge helps the organization to adapt the knowledge of its members while efficiently dealing with the problems at hand. This happens because highly specialized members reduce the necessary scope of knowledge and learning for other members during a certain period of time. And this makes it easier for the generalists and for the organization as a whole, to adapt to unforeseen shifts in knowledge demand because they need to learn less. From this nuanced perspective, differentiation and integration may have a complementary, rather than contradictory, relation under environmental uncertainty and problem diversity.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOrganization Design
EditorsJohn Joseph, Oliver Baumann, Richard Burton, Kannan Srikanth
PublisherEmerald Group Publishing
Publication date2018
Pages177-204
ISBN (Print)978-1-78756-330-8
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-78756-329-2, 978-1-78756-331-5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2018
SeriesAdvances in Strategic Management
Volume40
ISSN0742-3322

Fingerprint

Experiential learning
Organizational learning
Task allocation
Participation
Problem solving
Homogeneity
Hierarchical structure
Simulation experiment
Knowledge application
Task environment
Environmental uncertainty
Experiential knowledge
Organizational efficiency

Keywords

  • Coordination
  • Differentiation
  • Garbage can model
  • Organizational learning
  • Organizational structure
  • Problem solving
  • Specialization

Cite this

Yi, S., Stieglitz, N., & Knudsen, T. (2018). Differentiation and integration in organizational learning: A garbage can model. In J. Joseph, O. Baumann, R. Burton, & K. Srikanth (Eds.), Organization Design (pp. 177-204). Emerald Group Publishing. Advances in Strategic Management, Vol.. 40 https://doi.org/10.1108/S0742-332220180000040006
Yi, Sangyoon ; Stieglitz, Nils ; Knudsen, Thorbjørn. / Differentiation and integration in organizational learning : A garbage can model. Organization Design. editor / John Joseph ; Oliver Baumann ; Richard Burton ; Kannan Srikanth. Emerald Group Publishing, 2018. pp. 177-204 (Advances in Strategic Management, Vol. 40).
@inbook{c62127dccaca47ee88fc42ce6bf3f4c7,
title = "Differentiation and integration in organizational learning: A garbage can model",
abstract = "In this study, the authors unpack the micro-level processes of knowledge accumulation (experiential learning) and knowledge application (problem solving) to examine how task allocation structures influence organizational learning. The authors draw on untapped potential of the classical garbage can model (GCM), and extend it to analyze how restrictions on project participation influence differentiation and integration of organizational members’ knowledge and consequently organizational efficiency in solving the diverse, changing problems from an uncertain task environment. To isolate the effects of problem or knowledge diversity and experiential learning, the authors designed three simulation experiments to identify the most efficient task allocation structure in conditions of (1) knowledge homogeneity, (2) knowledge heterogeneity, and (3) experiential learning. The authors find that free project participation is superior when the members’ knowledge and the problems they solve are homogenous. When problems and knowledge are heterogeneous, the design requirement is on matching specialists to problem types. Finally, the authors found that experiential learning creates a dynamic problem where the double duty of adapting the members’ specialization and matching the specialists to problem types is best solved by a hierarchic structure (if problems are challenging). Underlying the efficiency of the hierarchical structure is an adaptive role of specialized members in organizational learning and problem solving: their narrow but deep knowledge helps the organization to adapt the knowledge of its members while efficiently dealing with the problems at hand. This happens because highly specialized members reduce the necessary scope of knowledge and learning for other members during a certain period of time. And this makes it easier for the generalists and for the organization as a whole, to adapt to unforeseen shifts in knowledge demand because they need to learn less. From this nuanced perspective, differentiation and integration may have a complementary, rather than contradictory, relation under environmental uncertainty and problem diversity.",
keywords = "Coordination, Differentiation, Garbage can model, Organizational learning, Organizational structure, Problem solving, Specialization",
author = "Sangyoon Yi and Nils Stieglitz and Thorbj{\o}rn Knudsen",
year = "2018",
doi = "10.1108/S0742-332220180000040006",
language = "English",
isbn = "978-1-78756-330-8",
pages = "177--204",
editor = "John Joseph and Oliver Baumann and Richard Burton and Kannan Srikanth",
booktitle = "Organization Design",
publisher = "Emerald Group Publishing",
address = "United Kingdom",

}

Yi, S, Stieglitz, N & Knudsen, T 2018, Differentiation and integration in organizational learning: A garbage can model. in J Joseph, O Baumann, R Burton & K Srikanth (eds), Organization Design. Emerald Group Publishing, Advances in Strategic Management, vol. 40, pp. 177-204. https://doi.org/10.1108/S0742-332220180000040006

Differentiation and integration in organizational learning : A garbage can model. / Yi, Sangyoon; Stieglitz, Nils; Knudsen, Thorbjørn.

Organization Design. ed. / John Joseph; Oliver Baumann; Richard Burton; Kannan Srikanth. Emerald Group Publishing, 2018. p. 177-204 (Advances in Strategic Management, Vol. 40).

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review

TY - CHAP

T1 - Differentiation and integration in organizational learning

T2 - A garbage can model

AU - Yi, Sangyoon

AU - Stieglitz, Nils

AU - Knudsen, Thorbjørn

PY - 2018

Y1 - 2018

N2 - In this study, the authors unpack the micro-level processes of knowledge accumulation (experiential learning) and knowledge application (problem solving) to examine how task allocation structures influence organizational learning. The authors draw on untapped potential of the classical garbage can model (GCM), and extend it to analyze how restrictions on project participation influence differentiation and integration of organizational members’ knowledge and consequently organizational efficiency in solving the diverse, changing problems from an uncertain task environment. To isolate the effects of problem or knowledge diversity and experiential learning, the authors designed three simulation experiments to identify the most efficient task allocation structure in conditions of (1) knowledge homogeneity, (2) knowledge heterogeneity, and (3) experiential learning. The authors find that free project participation is superior when the members’ knowledge and the problems they solve are homogenous. When problems and knowledge are heterogeneous, the design requirement is on matching specialists to problem types. Finally, the authors found that experiential learning creates a dynamic problem where the double duty of adapting the members’ specialization and matching the specialists to problem types is best solved by a hierarchic structure (if problems are challenging). Underlying the efficiency of the hierarchical structure is an adaptive role of specialized members in organizational learning and problem solving: their narrow but deep knowledge helps the organization to adapt the knowledge of its members while efficiently dealing with the problems at hand. This happens because highly specialized members reduce the necessary scope of knowledge and learning for other members during a certain period of time. And this makes it easier for the generalists and for the organization as a whole, to adapt to unforeseen shifts in knowledge demand because they need to learn less. From this nuanced perspective, differentiation and integration may have a complementary, rather than contradictory, relation under environmental uncertainty and problem diversity.

AB - In this study, the authors unpack the micro-level processes of knowledge accumulation (experiential learning) and knowledge application (problem solving) to examine how task allocation structures influence organizational learning. The authors draw on untapped potential of the classical garbage can model (GCM), and extend it to analyze how restrictions on project participation influence differentiation and integration of organizational members’ knowledge and consequently organizational efficiency in solving the diverse, changing problems from an uncertain task environment. To isolate the effects of problem or knowledge diversity and experiential learning, the authors designed three simulation experiments to identify the most efficient task allocation structure in conditions of (1) knowledge homogeneity, (2) knowledge heterogeneity, and (3) experiential learning. The authors find that free project participation is superior when the members’ knowledge and the problems they solve are homogenous. When problems and knowledge are heterogeneous, the design requirement is on matching specialists to problem types. Finally, the authors found that experiential learning creates a dynamic problem where the double duty of adapting the members’ specialization and matching the specialists to problem types is best solved by a hierarchic structure (if problems are challenging). Underlying the efficiency of the hierarchical structure is an adaptive role of specialized members in organizational learning and problem solving: their narrow but deep knowledge helps the organization to adapt the knowledge of its members while efficiently dealing with the problems at hand. This happens because highly specialized members reduce the necessary scope of knowledge and learning for other members during a certain period of time. And this makes it easier for the generalists and for the organization as a whole, to adapt to unforeseen shifts in knowledge demand because they need to learn less. From this nuanced perspective, differentiation and integration may have a complementary, rather than contradictory, relation under environmental uncertainty and problem diversity.

KW - Coordination

KW - Differentiation

KW - Garbage can model

KW - Organizational learning

KW - Organizational structure

KW - Problem solving

KW - Specialization

U2 - 10.1108/S0742-332220180000040006

DO - 10.1108/S0742-332220180000040006

M3 - Book chapter

SN - 978-1-78756-330-8

SP - 177

EP - 204

BT - Organization Design

A2 - Joseph, John

A2 - Baumann, Oliver

A2 - Burton, Richard

A2 - Srikanth, Kannan

PB - Emerald Group Publishing

ER -

Yi S, Stieglitz N, Knudsen T. Differentiation and integration in organizational learning: A garbage can model. In Joseph J, Baumann O, Burton R, Srikanth K, editors, Organization Design. Emerald Group Publishing. 2018. p. 177-204. (Advances in Strategic Management, Vol. 40). https://doi.org/10.1108/S0742-332220180000040006