What is Learning Organisations ?

Learning OrganizationsBefore a learning organizations a can be Implemented, a solid foundation can be made by taking account the following:

  • Awareness
  • Environment
  • Leadership
  • Empowerment
  • Learning

Awareness: Organizations must be aware that learning is necessary before they can be developing into a learning organization. This may seem to a strange but this learning must take place at all levels; no just the management level. Once the company has excepted the need for change, it is responsible for creating the appropriate environment for this change to occur in.

Environment: Centralized, mechanistic structures do not create a good environment. Individuals do not have a comprehensive picture of the whole organization and its goals. This causes political and parochial systems to be set up which stifle the learning process. Therefore, a more flexible, organic structure must be formed. By organic, we mean a flatter structure which encourages innovations. The flatter structure also promotes passing of information between workers and is creating a more informed work force.

It is necessary for management to take on a new philosophy; to encourage openness, reflectivity and accept error and uncertainty. Members need to be able question decisions without the fear of reprimand. This questioning can often highlight problems at an early stage and reduce time consuming errors. One way of overcoming this fear is to introduce anonymity so that questions can be suggestions made but the source is not necessarily known.

Leadership: leaders should foster the systems thinking concept and encourage learning to help restructure the individual views of team members. For example, they need to help the teams understand that competition is a form of learning; not a hostile act.

Management must provide commitment for long-term learning in the form of resources. The amount of resources available (money. Personnel and time) determines the quantity and quality of learning. This means that the organization must be prepared to support this.

Empowerment: The locus of control shifts from managers to workers. This is where the term empowerment is introduced. The workers become responsible for their actions; but the managers do not lose their involvement. They still need to encourage, enthuse and co-ordinate the workers.  Equal participation must be allowed at all the levels so that members can learn from each other simultaneously. This is unlike traditionally learning that involves a top-down structure (classroom-type example) which is consuming.

Learning: Companies can learn to achieve aims in Learning Labs. These are small –scale models of real-life settings where management teams learn how to learn together through simulation games. They need to find out what failure is like so that they can learn from their mistakes in the feature. These managers are then responsible for setting up an open, flexible atmosphere in their organization to encourage their workers to follow their learning example.

Anonymity has already been mentioned and can be achieved through electronic conferencing. This type of conferencing can also encourage different sites to communicate and share knowledge, thus making a company truly a Learning Organization.