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Learning in Action: A Guide to Putting the Learning Organization to Work Hardcover – April 1, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press (April 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1578512514
  • ISBN-13: 978-1578512515
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,511,895 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Today's business leaders must always know what their stakeholders are thinking--be they customers, employees, constituents, or competitors--and act upon that information in a timely and appropriate manner. How companies collect, decipher, and utilize this knowledge, in fact, may be the real determinant of their long-term viability. Harvard Business School professor David A. Garvin's Learning in Action authoritatively dissects these activities as practiced by so-called learning organizations, then clearly outlines the steps necessary to build one of them. "Sweeping metaphors and grand themes are far less helpful than the knowledge of how individuals and organizations learn on a daily basis," Garvin writes. "The key to success is mastery of the details, coupled with a command of the levers that shape behavior." His book's core offers a practical examination of the three primary routes to corporate learning: collecting intelligence from outside sources (via interview and observation, for example); accumulating data through targeted actions (such as postproject reviews and special programs); and experimenting with alternative outcomes by manipulating variables (including prototype creation and exploratory design testing). Combining research from myriad fields, detailed studies of successful models such as Xerox and the U.S. Army, and snapshots of specific practices at additional firms such as Intel and Wal-Mart, he succeeds in providing "a broad, integrated view of the topic that is grounded in scholarship." --Howard Rothman

From the Back Cover

"Garvin gives managers a rich set of action-oriented tools and procedures. This is a very helpful guide for translating the learning organization into action."
-Thomas Schmidheiny, Chairman and CEO, Holderbank Financire Glaris, Ltd.

"Garvin has crafted the book on learning how to learn. It's full of smart research insights and superb practical wisdom. The experimentation chapter alone is worth the price."
-Kathleen M. Eisenhardt, Coauthor of Competing on the Edge and Professor of Strategy and Organization at Stanford University

"Garvin has done managers and scholars a great service by drawing upon a wealth of perspectives on learning, placing them in a coherent framework, and bringing the framework to life through an array of engaging, practical examples. If you are interested in how organizations can improve in the knowledge game, you mustn't miss Learning in Action."
-Donald Hambrick, Samuel Bronfman Professor of Democratic Business Enterprise, Columbia Business School

"One of the characteristics of today's successful organization is its ability to improve performance by learning on a continuing basis. Learning in Action provides an in-depth discussion of not only the types of learning necessary for success, but also the techniques for leading this process. An excellent addition to the modern manager's library."
-Doug Ford, Chief Executive, Refining and Marketing, BP Amoco PLC

"Garvin's new book is a tremendous achievement. The wealth of examples on how organizations and individuals can learn more effectively is truly impressive. Learning in Action will be very useful for both managers and general readers."
-Michael A. Cusumano, Sloan Management Review Distinguished Professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management and Coauthor of Competing on Internet Time and Microsoft Secrets

"Garvin combines a comprehensive intellectual perspective with rich data to produce a compelling case for organizational learning. Learning in Action, generous in spirit and positive in outlook, is an exciting, action-oriented guide for leaders who take organizational learning seriously."
-Robert A. Burgelman, Edmund W. Littlefield Professor of Management, Stanford Business School

"Learning in Action is an excellent resource. Garvin understands the real-world difficulties of leading complex organizations and translates learning theory and management theory into practical applications in a most effective and useful manner. Garvin's keen insight into how leaders can promote and sustain effective learning organizations makes this book a must-read."
-Elaine Ullian, CEO, Boston Medical Center


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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By L. Funkhouser on December 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is a great tool if you would like to relearn how to learn. It should be on every manager's bookshelf. Actually, everyone who wishes to be a more effective team player and or leader should have this book on his or her shelf. This book is great for educators, managers, or any employee that works in a team-based environment.

There are tests given in the book to decide if your organization is in fact a learning organization. The focus on the book is to provide necessary tools to develop a successful learning organization. The learning process is presented very clearly. Garvin says that there are three basic steps of the learning process. They are acquiring, interpreting and applying knowledge. He builds on each of the phases in the book.

Garvin presents three types of learning - intelligence, experience and experimentation. He includes several case studies from a wide range of fields that clarify the presented learning process. Xerox, U.S. Army, Allegheny Ludlum Steel, and the Timkin Company are some of the companies that he presents in-depth case studies about. These real-life examples make up about one-third of the book (71 pages) and make the reading of this book fly by!

This book is laid out in a very clear and easy-to-follow fashion. It serves like a manual and I recommend this book to all who wish to be successful. Give it as a Christmas/Holiday Season gift! Thank you!
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Timothy J. Kindler VINE VOICE on March 18, 2001
Format: Hardcover
In Learning in Action, David Garvin lays out the concept of learning in a straightforward and easy-to-read manner. He defines the process of learning and the types of learning, and then ties it together in coverage of the challenges organizations have in establishing a paradigm or continuous learning (which includes action). While non-fiction is by its very nature often not the most exciting material in print, this book is able to keep the reader's attention through the use of real-life examples and a steady progression from the basics to the more complex. I read this in one sitting on a coast-to-coast flight and was never even close to falling asleep!! If you are interested in a practical approach to the subject of Learning, this book is worth a look.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By M. Bailey on June 30, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is the best book that I have had in my college career so far. The writing is concise yet simple in its approach to the complex schools of thought of knowledge management, organizational management and making the workplace one that fosters learning and sharing information on every level. I recommend this writing to all college scholars that need to lend themselves to a team oriented concept in their future endeavors.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Garvin starts by describing what he considers to be the process of learning which consists of "creating, acquiring, interpreting , transfering and retaining knowledge and purposefully modifying behavour".
Sadly this book only delivers on about half of that list. The topics of "interpreting" and "modifying behaviour" are completely neglected. Information gathering and knowledge transfer get a lot more air time but even then there is not a lot of genuine insite. There are case studies but very little to guide the practicing manager.
Over all it is a light and easy to read introduction to the topic, nothing more, nothing less.
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By Nurs3 G33 on September 8, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Received this book in a timely manner for my class. Well worth the price. Even though it was a used book it was in very good shape.
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I have enjoyed the book like how the main points are already highlighted for me. It arrived on time and was very affordably price.
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By Rose Avila on April 30, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am taking a course using this text right now. The texts I order through Amazon.com (and Prime) are always on time and exactly as described. The great thing is I keep them nice and sell the texts back after the course is over. I LOVE MY AMAZON DEALS!!
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