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THE INFLUENCE OF A LEARNING CULTURE ON IT INVESTMENTS

for remaining viable as a competitor in the marketplace 0. Because of this, processes are regularly analyzed, com- bined with new ideas, and refined. Previous research has investigated various processes of learning organizations, seeking insights on best practices, what these organiza- tions have learned, and how their processes differ from other organizations. While the organizational learning perspective has been used to investigate Information Technology (IT) adoption, in general, and IT assimilation

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    00, research examining the initial IT investment deci-

sion has been scant. One study found that organizations with a learning culture were more likely to consider the social implications of technology adoption than those without such a culture 0. In addition, there is some evi- dence that organizations with a continuous-learning cul- ture may invest in different technologies, or invest in technologies earlier, than those without such a culture. For example, Lin and Lee 0 found that organizational learning factors were significantly related to e-business adoption. Bangert and Dockter 0 discovered that organ- izational learning cultural variables were important to rapid adoption of the new and intrusive technology in the healthcare field. We continue this sparsely researched stream of research, by investigating whether organizations with a learning culture differ from other organizations in their IT investment process and technology choices. Spe- cifically, the study intends to examine the following ques- tions:

1) Are there IT investment decision issues that are considered to a greater degree by organiza- tions with a learning culture? 2) Do such organizations involve different types of managers in their decision process? 3) Are the technologies that organizations with a learning culture choose to adopt different from other organizations? To address these questions, we use socio- technical systems (STS) theory as a theoretical lens. STS assumes that organizations are made up of people (the social subsystem) using tools, techniques and procedures (the technical subsystem) to produce goods or services valued by customers (part of the organization's external environment). How well the social and technical subsys- tems are designed with respect to one another and with respect to the demands of the external environment deter- mines to a large extent how effective the organization will be 0. Many researchers have embraced the STS approach by applying the concepts to IS topics such as system analysis and design 0, software project risk analysis 0, IT investment 0, business process reengineering 0 and devel- opment and use of group support systems 0. Past research has shown that learning organizations are more likely to

take into account both social and technical subsystem is- sues 00. In this paper, we use STS to inform our investi- gation of how a learning organization’s culture might af- fect its IT investment decisions.

The remainder of this paper is organized as fol- lows. First, we present the theoretical background for our study and the research hypotheses. Next, we describe the methodology, the research results, implications and limita- tions.

THEORETICAL BACKGROUND AND RESEARCH HYPOTHESES

Socio-Technical Systems Theory (STS) and Continuous-Learning Culture

Both STS and the organizational learning per- spective have roots in open systems theory. In open sys- tem theory, the term “open” means that the components receive input from the environment and “system” implies the interaction of the components. Open systems thinking is referred to as “the cornerstone of how learning organi- zations think about their world” 0 . Organizations adopt- ing open systems thinking see the interrelationship among the components and patterns of change, rather than the static snapshots 0. With STS, linear and mechanistic thinking are replaced by system thinking-- a way of think- ing which recognizes the interaction among components and the importance of the whole 0.

“Joint optimization” is a key STS principle. Con- trary to technological determinism, STS is widely recog- nized for promoting the joint evaluation of both social and technical subsystems of any organizational system. Or- ganizations can perform optimally when social subsystem and technical subsystem are both designed to fit each other 0. Suboptimization will occur when only the social or the technical subsystem is emphasized 0.

Offshoots of the STS paradigm, such as Learning Network Theory (LNT), focus on the interaction of learn- ing and organizational change 0. According to LNT, or- ganizational members develop action theories, which they use to augment their skills and enhance organizational performance. In such organizations, learning is seen as an extremely important human capability; a vital resource that allows the system as a whole to be sustainable and to continuously adapt.

Organizations that have a culture embracing con- tinuous-learning share an organization-wide belief and expectation that “general knowledge acquisition and ap-

Journal of Information Technology Management Volume XVI, Number 3, 2005

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