An organization’s approach to learning depends on its purpose, culture, environment, operating style, and ability to absorb change. The different ways in which an organization can pursue learning are given below.
Peep into the Past:
Every organization undergoes some experiences and has its own traditions. It has its own share of successes and failures. Warren Bennis says that organizations can learn from their past experiences by re-examining them in the context of the new and evolving environment. The lessons learned can help the organizations to adapt to different environments.
It is important to organizations to be aware of the direction of change in the environment. To find this out, organizations take recourse to controlled experiments and study their effects. Many organizations employ market research agencies to accomplish this objective. James MacGregor burns says, “Executives operate by feel and by feedback. They grope their way into the future, moving one step at a time, ready always to fall back as they encounter obstacles.
Learning from others’ experiences:
Organizations learn from the experiences of other organizations as well. Leaders learn by reading trade publications, attending trade association meetings, and discussing the problems of the industry with other leaders.
Learning through Analysis:
According to warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, many organizations learn by continuously analyzing trends in the external environment, identifying emerging issues, and designing new ways to cope with those issues. According to Alfred p Sloan, the legendary CEO of General Motors, “The final act of business judgment is, of course, intuitive. But the big work behind business judgment is in finding and acknowledging the facts and circumstances concerning technology, the market and the like, in their continually changing forms. Many leaders interviewed by Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus felt the same. They were of the opinion that the leader’s intuitive judgment is a must, but through analysis should precede intuitive decision – making.
Learning through formal and informal means:
Many organizations have formal training programs. Through most of them are aimed at building individual skills of employees. Some of them concentrate on team building and group learning experiences. For example, coerces on new technologies and industry trends are aimed at ensuring organizational learning about changes in the environment. Informal training such as briefings by vendors, consultants and external auditors also result in organizational learning. Similarly, newsletters and bulletin boards promote learning in the organization.
Organization have to unlearn; they have to discard old knowledge when their actions conflict with the realities of market place. Incidents such as losing a key customer can force an organization to wuestion their old assumptions, and recombine, recorder or change them. Learning organizations place a lot of value on unlearning experiences as they serve as reality tests, and make it possible to change in order to avoid major mistakes in the future.
The six modes of innovative learning discussed above help organizations to reconfigure themselves, replace old rules, improve information flows, and improve their creative abilities. Some organizations are fast learners while others are not; but it is the leadership that makes this difference. An organizational learning effort without appropriate leadership will undoubtedly lack energy, force, cohesion, and purpose.
In case you missed it, my last post was The Learning Organization - Part I of II
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Acknowledgement: Leadership & Change Management book by ICFAI