To thrive and prosper in turbulent conditions, organizations have to learn. They have to be good at reflection. They must understand and protect what they do well. They must be committed to continuous improvement.
Sounds straightforward enough, but we all know that wanting to learn is a lot easier to say than to do. And, the more complex the system that has to learn, the more challenging it is to do so.
the same behavior over
and over again even though it leads to lousy outcomes” is a functional
definition of insanity. Though this
might be true, even the most cursory study of history demonstrates that
sorts of human systems from families to multinational enterprises are
making this error. We build gas guzzlers
in the face of declining carbon reserves and increasing prices. Racism and sexism are denounced in every
quarter and yet hostile work environments for women and people of
are documented every day on a worldwide basis. NASA
disregards safety lessons learned from
the Challenger, and the
Learning that leads to change is very tough. Our defenses at the personal, group and organizational against negative feedback and our denial of the need to address problems are very well-developed. In fact, research by Chris Argryis and many others demonstrates that anything we do well—including those things that may not be that helpful to us or our organizations—is highly skillful. The more automatic something is, the harder it is to notice it and to “unlearn” it!
Notwithstanding all of the difficulties with learning, many organizations are, obviously, doing a good job of it. Look at all of the compelling new products being created (e.g., the hybrid car, the iPod), the development of services people must have (e.g., data mining) , and the codification of knowledge that makes what was once very difficult completely routine (e.g., ISO standards).
of the Future approaches the
organizational learning challenge with several educational strategies: