You are on page 1of 5

The word "learning" was coined in the 1980s to describe organizations that experimented with new ways of conducting

business in order to survive in turbulent, highly competitive markets Table 1 presents the characteristics that define the learning organization, and the positive results accruing to individuals and the organization or culture as a whole when they are present. Two characteristics are individual; three are group-based. The characteristics listed in Table 1 are general qualities that exist within a learning culture. However, there are concrete cognitive and behavioral tools, as well as specific types of social interaction and structural conditions, that improve the chances that these qualities are achieved and sustained over time. These are the "best practices" listed in Table 1. While not an exhaustive list, the ones listed in Table 1 fall under four main categories:
• • • •

communication and openness; inquiry and feedback; adequate time; and Mutual respect and support.

Communication and openness involve both self-reflection (i.e., being honest with oneself about a situation) and participatory reflection (i.e., pushing the group to clarify and evaluate the assumptions underlying how work gets done within the organization). It also involves communication that flows as much from the bottom of a hierarchy to the top as vice-versa. Inquiry allows individuals to become adept at questioning things as a normal course of their work. It encourages people to take risks in improving aspects of their work. Positive feedback involves activities that are designed to let people learn from their inquiries, to build a personal knowledge base that is defined by proactive rather than reactive or defensive thinking. It involves those with more experience helping those with less experience understand not just the "right" way to do things, but what can be

Finally.Forgiveness of reflexivity . to 3. mutual respect and support involves treating co-workers.compare reality or 2. personal vision ability to deal with change Less use of Mental models individual The ability to 1. less that perceptions. 4. flexibility. Characteristics of a Learning Organization and Associated Best Practices * Characteristic Definition Associated Practices 1. and employees equally and consistently with respect to one's ability to contribute positively to the organization.Balance work life work/nonon supervisory events. reflection. Table 1. face and for clarify one's limitations areas improvement.Time for learning .Sharing experiences Best Positive Byproducts Greater commitment the to organization and to work. feedback.Emphasis feedback 5. regardless of where that person is located in the organizational hierarchy.openly see reality individual as it exists. less rationalization negative ability to of honestly Self mastery.More interaction time between levels 4.Reflective personal with vision 3. and inquiry all depend upon individuals having adequate time to engage themselves and others in meaningful dialogue and brainstorming. supervisors. Communication.learned from doing things the "wrong" way.Habit of openness defensive routines inquiry in work.Positive reinforcement from role The ability to and models/managers 2.

leads reconciling into a both dysfunctional oneself 5. 5.Trust 3.Habit of dissemination aligning interests.Emphasis cooperation 6. less time spent on mutually desirable future 4. openness 2.Participative awareness. avoidance to coherent of less of understanding difficult situations 1.Empathy others Commitment over compliance.Support over blame.group picture of a openness 2. 5.Consensus heightened building 3. collective and learning.Top-down bottom-up communication flows.Participative The ability of a group of individuals Shared vision to hold a shared .Creative thinking enhanced creativity self Long-term than "discussion" Systems The ability to see 1.Flexibility/adaptability patterns behavior.A common language on more effective communication flows Group self- The ability of a group of individuals to Team learning . greater towards within group trust.Practicing .group personal assumptions about each engage "dialogue" other and in rather suspend 1. cohesiveness. learning "up and down" the hierarchy. faster change. greater 4.

generalizations.improvement interrelationships rather than linear cause-effect.Emphasis learning on team mental change. decreased organizational conflict. developing patience. Continually clarifying and deepening their personal vision.Possessing consistent models 3.the deeply ingrained assumptions. and mission. thinking group the mastery 2.Possessing a shared vision 4. and seeing reality objectively.   Ensuring a shared vision -. Commitment of individuals in the organization to personal mastery (lifelong learning). other Revolutionary over evolutionary change parts of the system  Learning" organizations are characterized by carrying out the five disciplines that Senge refers to in his book:  Making explicit the mental models that people hold -. values.shared goals. continuous learning group or ability to think in context appreciate consequences actions on and the of among members. or images that influence how we understand the world and how we take action. focusing their energies. .

Suspending assumptions.  People often have potential leverage they don't exercise because they focus only on their own decisions and ignore how their decisions affect others.  It is important to address the underlying causes of behavior at a level that patterns of behavior can be changed. different people in the same structure tend to produce qualitatively similar results (they get caught in the same ruts). and norms into action)." or adaptive learning. goals.learning that enhances our capacity to create ("learning about learning"). discovering insights not attainable individually. In everyday thinking. Recognizing that businesses are bound by invisible fabrics of interrelated actions.  Structure in human systems is subtle. which often take years to fully play out their effects on each other. . Understanding that because we are part of that fabric. Some key concepts:  Structure influences behavior (systems cause their own crises). it is hard to see the whole pattern of change.  Systems thinking (the "fifth" discipline).  Leverage comes from new ways of thinking. rules. including how people make decisions (the operating policies whereby we translate perceptions. Commitment to team learning. learning has come to be synonymous with "taking in information. The learning organization is involved in generative learning -. recognizing patterns of interaction that undermine learning (patterns of defensiveness).