Learning and the doom loop

Do you think your business/organisation learns? Forget about the indidividuals in the organisation for a minute and consider the organisation as an entity. It is a living, breathing and dynamic entity, but does it learn?

Let me look at this from a couple of perspectives. Firstly, does your organisation repeat mistakes? It does not matter if your organisation is large and mistakes are repeated in different departments or business units. If your organisation is repeating mistakes or perpetuating bad practices the chances are it is not learning.

Is your organisation ready to learn? There is a compelling learning theory that posits learning takes place when the learner is ready. If the learner is not ready then a temporary ‘reactive learning’ may occur but there is not stickability. If an organisation is not readay to learn there may be a ‘teflon like effect’ when experience is endured but no penetration is made in psyche, systems or processes to leverage the experience to learning, retention and practice.

I am getting more deeply interested in the relationship between learning and innovation in organisations. This past week I have experienced some interesting insights with both a small business and a huge multi-national in how their organisations learn and innovate as well as the contrary. In both cases there are leaders now recognising that they are repeating past mistakes.

Maybe ‘mistakes’ is too strong a word but these organisations are waking up and realising they are not developing a collective organisational ‘consciousness’ that distributes learning among all its members. In one case this is impacting the return on investment of a considerable marketing budget. In the other case, the organisation is undertaking a large software implementation in business unit silos with all sorts of political ‘cloak and daggers.’ The organisation realised it has so much redundancy of systems and knowledge but there has been no leadership to transmit this learning more broadly.

I am going to write more about learning and innovation. I see these topics as being so critical whether you are a small micro business or a multi-national.

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