Knowledge: the Key to Competitive Advantage for Learning Organisations

Changes in technology, especially information technology, has accelerated the spread of knowledge at tremendous speed, as well as exposing its quick obsolence. The increasing complexity, turbulency and uncertainty of the library environment predictably requires different and greater knowledge on the part of library service providers to satisfy the increasingly complex customer demands. There is a clear need for new solutions.

Knowledge is viewed as the key input for the development of a competitive advantage for organisations where employees’ knowledge and skills are critical factors. Without this there is no organisational success. It follows then that managerial methods, policy and styles should be constantly revamped and in tune with current development. Employees’ education and training on the other hand require due consideration to improve library and information services. In the local context, training programmes and career-building for employees seem to be very low on the agenda of top management.  Without employee training and a proper staff development plan, appropriate conditions for constant knowledge improvement, innovation and creativity in work,  organisations will not survive in a more and more competitive and turbulent environment. It is only through knowledge, knowledge-sharing and mutual experience exchange that will lead learning organisations to attain a competitive advantage.

Besides, lifelong learning of employees in the library field will contribute to the establishment of a permanently learning organisation. A learning organisation is formed when it actively promotes learning of all its members and transforms it permanently. Today successful organisations are not those that have a well-educated workforce but most often those that have coherently and systematically implemented a continuous (life-long) learning programme. The only way for the library community to survive as a learning organisation is to innovate or accept to perish. Obtaining knowledge, learning, education, all have a real effect on the quality of service when they are harmonised with the needs and objectives of a particular library. In addition, employee training and development does not imply only obtaining new knowledge, abilities and skills, but also the possibility to introduce employees to changes, encourage the change of their attitude and involve them actively in the process of decision making.

The learning organisation is also the organisation that learns and encourages people to learn in the organisation. It motivates information exchange between employees and creates staff with different knowledge. The initial concept of knowledge management indicates that power does not come from knowledge, but from the exchange and use of that knowledge. More qualitative knowledge is obtained by exchanging knowledge; and obtaining and sharing knowledge becomes the core of a learning organisation. Application of this system in the library community of Mauritius remains a managerial challenge. Library management requires positive reinventing to constantly monitor and encourage the development of new skills and knowledge and create a new type of leadership where the leaders are not all-knowing supervisors, but rather moderators and inspirators. The leaders need to recognize, attract and release knowledge which also implies a high degree of employee competence and orientation towards the participative style of management.

The prosperity of the library community is definitely dependent on the intellectual capacity of the employees and their ability to change and adjust to the dynamic environment. Renewing knowledge is crucial in the library field and not an option. Without it, it is difficult to implement the changes and adjust them to the ever changing environment, to create innovations and guarantee the success of the learning organisation.

Lalita Chumun


Vemic, J. 2007. Employee training and development and the learning organisation. Economics and Organisation, 209 (4/2).