Wisdom from Experience Paradox: Organizational Learning, Mistakes, Hierarchy and Maturity Issues





constant learning culture, hierarchy, maturity, mistakes acceptance, change adaptability, organisational learning, single-loop learning, double-loop learning, knowledge workers


Organisations often perceive mistakes as indicators of negligence and low performance, yet they can be a precious learning resource. However, organisations cannot learn from mistakes if they have not accepted them. This study aimed to explore how organisational hierarchy and maturity levels influence the relationship between mistakes acceptance and the ability to change. A sample composed of 380 Polish employees working in knowledge-driven organisations across various industries was used to examine this phenomenon. Data collection occurred from November to December 2019. Data were analysed through OLS regression, using PROCESS software. The findings revealed that the acceptance of mistakes positively influences adaptability to change. Moreover, because of mistakes acceptance, knowledge workers in organisations with a low-level hierarchy adapt to changes more effectively than those who work in strongly (or high-level) hierarchical companies. Additionally, higher levels of hierarchy result in lower adaptability to change, which is particularly visible in mature organisations. The study's essence is the empirical proof that a high level of organizational maturity and hierarchy can be a blocker of the adaptability to change if the organisation stays on the single-loop of learning (does perfectly what it used to do). Mistakes acceptance and thanks to this, also learning from mistakes, supports organisational change adaptability. Change adaptability is vital for double-loop learning (organizational actions re-framing). Moreover, this study has exposed the paradox of ‘wisdom from experience’ empirically. Namely, it is expected that experience and maturity result in positive outcomes and increased organisational leverage. Whereas more prominent, experienced, and mature organisations face serious difficulties when changing their routines and behaviours.



5 Sep 2021



General Paper