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learning organisationAccording to Fortune magazine, the successful organisation of the future will be "something called a learning organisation."

Just what constitutes a ‘learning organisation’ is a matter of some debate. We explore some of the themes that have emerged in literature and contributions of key thinkers like Donald Schon and Peter Senge (writer of The Fifth Discipline). Is it anything more than rhetoric? Can it be accomplished?

In a previous article I wrote about Rewarding people for their learning, not their imitating.  It takes an example of training dolphins.  Read it here.

A learning organisation has five main features:

A learning organisation is one in which:

It encourages organisations to shift to a more interconnected way of thinking. Organisations should become more like communities that employees can feel a commitment to. They will work harder for an organisation they are committed to.  It promotes exchange of information between employees hence creating a more knowledgable workforce. This produces a very flexible organisation where people will accept and adapt to new ideas and changes through a shared vision.

One quote says

"A Learning Organisation is one in which people at all levels, individuals and collectively, are continually increasing their capacity to produce results they really care about."

The learning organisation is an ideal which is difficult to setup.  There are two important things here:

  1. While there has been a lot of talk about learning organisations it is very difficult to identify real-life examples. This might be because the vision is ‘too idealistic’.
  2. Second, the focus on creating a template and upon the need to present it in a form that is commercially attractive to consultants has led to a situation where effective working templates have not been developed.  Standards and tools for assessment are lacking.

In saying that, if you don’t follow the notion of a learning organisation, it is likely that you will experience some of the following:

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"A Learning Organisation is one in which people at all levels, individuals and collectively, are continually increasing their capacity to produce results they really care about."

So how do you convert your company into a learning organisation?  Without being over simplistic, here are some starting points:

Finally, if you want to follow the Learning Organisations concept, you should thrive on change and don’t be scared.  Encouraging experimentation is a necessary risk.  Communication is key.  Your surrounding environment, both internal and external, is a superb area for facilitating learning.  Employees and their skills are regularly a companies biggest assets – Learn from your employees.  People like to be appreciated, therefore reward learning.  The company should know its objectives – to make profit is not enough.  Learning Organisations want everyone to learn and they go to great effort to make that possible.  This is how they show that they care.