What is a learning organisation? Ever since that term has made it to our vocabulary it seems to provoke more questions than solutions! Questions are great but this time they can really lead to bottomless and fruitless discussions!
In my organisation there are just as many people arguing that we are a learning organisation as there are thinking the contrary.
So what makes a learning organisation? One could come up with a checklist and even a detailed monitoring framework but really that is not the point, is it?
How about following some of those characteristics:
- Putting learning at the core of every key business operation – instilling a culture of critical reflection in all business operations (as opposed to having a KM unit acting in isolation of the rest of the organisation);
- “Practicing” learning by creating space for it, among others through regular and planned knowledge sharing activities and ongoing feedback to information systems;
- Not fearing innovation and the changes this brings to regular organizational processes? In other words, not taking any state and status for granted but being ready to adapt to changing circumstances;
- Encouraging an open and pragmatic ‘sound criticism’ culture throughout the organisation to encourage early warning system from any staff member (as one unit from the same matrix);
- Being ready to examine one’s efficiency of processes (single loop), effectiveness in results (double loop) and overall relevance in being (triple loop learning);
- Establishing very clear rules of mutual respect, recognizing the legitimacy of different people/voices and working consciously on interpersonal communication (listening, talking in a non-threatening way, questioning mental models behind statements etc).
The rules/guidelines that apply to a learning alliance apply to such an organisation.
And perhaps as much as for monitoring one should not only focus on proving but on improving, perhaps when it comes to the learning organisation what matters is the awareness, intention and initiative that matter, not only the result.
Plus, one might argue, with learning you are never finished, so you can always improve. Again what matters is not the destination (if there is any?) but the voyage… Now a good example of the ever learning individual would be to come up with a fresher metaphor (lol)… oh well, I guess we will have a long voyage indeed.