Learning Organizations 101 Volume I Part 6 Team Learning

Team learning is the second of Peter Senge s group-centric disciplines outlined in his book The Fifth Discipline, and it's the final discipline I will cover in this series of newsletter articles. Team learning has absolutely nothing to do with training. Team learning in the systems or learning organization context focuses instead on the transmission of both tacit and explicit knowledge throughout the group as well as the creation of an environment in which focused creativity can flourish Team learning is described as the process of aligning and developing the capacities of a team to create the results its members truly desire (Senge 1990: 236). It builds on personal mastery (03/11 Newsletter) and shared vision (5/11 Newsletter) but these are not enough. People need to be able to act together. When teams learn together, Peter Senge suggests, not only can there be good results for the organization; members will grow more rapidly than could have occurred otherwise. The discipline of team learning starts with dialogue , the capacity of members of a team to suspend assumptions and enter into a genuine thinking together . To the Greeks dia-logos meant a free-flowing if meaning through a group, allowing the group to discover insights not attainable individually . [It] also involves learning how to recognize the patterns of interaction in teams that undermine learning. (Senge 1990: 10) The notion of dialogue(http://www.infed.org/biblio/b-dialog.htm) flows through The Fifth Discipline. When dialogue is joined with systems thinking, Senge argues, there is the possibility of creating a language more suited for dealing with complexity, and of focusing on deep-seated structural issues and forces rather than being diverted by questions of personality and leadership style. Indeed, such is the emphasis on dialogue in his work that it could almost be put alongside systems thinking as a central feature of his approach. One of the key elements of team learning is a willingness to deeply explore a problem. We can develop this skill individually using personal mastery, but something unique happens when we bring our willingness to explore a problem into a group situation. According to Senge, a group's collective IQ is much higher than the IQ in an individual if the group can coalesce and begin to use each other as a springboard for understanding and resolving the problem at hand. We ve all been in meetings where everyone is engaged and excited, and the ideas just seem to build seamlessly on one another. When this happens, the solution the group has developed is above and beyond the work that any team member could have done individually Team Learning is fundamental to the performance of a team. Without it, a team can never achieve its potential. Team members can attend strategic planning sessions, learn techniques of quality assurance or learn how to run a meeting, but unless the principles of Team Learning are fully implemented, improvements will be short-lived.