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Understanding the Parameters of Learning Organization

November 1, 1994
Related Topics: Corporate Culture, Behavioral Training, Featured Article
Here are some operating principles of the learning organization:

  • There's no such thing as a learning organization. This is because it's a vision that sees the world as interdependent and changing. A learning organization always is evolving.
  • The learning organization embodies new capabilities beyond traditional organizations. It's based on a culture of human values of love and compassion. It's a way to practice conversation and coordinated action, and the capacity to see and work with the flow of life as a system. People within a learning organization use language as a way to connect and inquire into systemic consequences for their actions.
  • Learning organizations are built by "servant leaders." Conventional ideas of leadership began with individual hero worship. This may block the emergence of leadership of teams. Servant leaders are people who lead because they choose to serve one another and the higher purpose.
  • Learning arises from performance and practice. Learning is too important to leave to chance. People can't pick up what they need from training. Thus, learning centers (or virtual learning spaces) have grown as places viewed as managers' practice fields.
  • Process and content are inseparable. Rather than look at content and process as fragments, viewing the two together enables new insights.
  • Learning is dangerous. It occurs because we feel the need to change, yet we're afraid of the unknown. The learning required here is called "transformational learning," in which problems aren't separate from the way we think and the assumptions behind our ideas.

SOURCE: Based on Communities of Commitment: The Heart of Learning Organizations, by Fred Kofman and Peter M. Senge at MIT's Organizational Learning Center.

Personnel Journal, November 1994, Vol. 73, No.11, p. 59.

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