How do you become a learning organisation?
How do you influence the learning culture in your organization and which role can continuous learning play?
The current society develops quickly on societal and technological level. This results in the demand of organizations to keep developing and changing continuously along with the society. The adaptability of organizations is more important than ever. Knowledge within organizations must therefore continuously be supplemented and updated. As an organization you must be capable of this. That’s why a good learning culture is of essential importance.
In the ground-breaking book of Peter Senge The Fifth Discipline the ‘learning organization’ was for the first time coined as a term. Organizations should quickly react to their dynamic environment. To do this a culture shift that stimulates learning is needed. This learning culture must become part of the organization culture, but it costs time to make learning a complete and routine part of the organization culture. This asks mostly for good leadership and a few adaptations of the commons mindset.
Support employees to give their opinion. Deviating opinions can ensure breakthroughs in complex organization and learning processes. Curiosity to each other’s perspectives and an open attitude are thus important.
Accept change to be a constant factor. Organizations must constantly keep changing in order to keep innovating. As a manager you must ensure stability in this dynamic. Challenge your employees, but ensure support where it’s needed.
Set fixed moments for reflection and feedback. Discuss with employees what they’ve learned, what they’re doing good and what they can still improve. Reflection and feedback are indispensable parts of learning.
Stimulate a grow-mindset among your employees. Don’t reject them because of mistakes, but formulate learning goals with your employees and give compliments on the learning processes they go through.
Seven learning limitations that continuously obstruct continuous learning
When change is a constant factor, the organization must thus continuously keep learning. Learning must become a routine and prominent activity of all members of the organization. Senge addresses that continuous learning is often obstructed by one of the following learning limitations:
When something goes wrong, people seek someone to blame and don’t look at themselves. People deny their own influence on the final result.
People identify with the tasks they perform in their job instead of with the contribution they provide to the mission of the organization. This lessens the sense of responsibility of people for their contribution to the organization as a whole.
People learn best from experience, but often don’t see the long term consequences of their decisions.
People are often reactive instead of proactive. They often only start to take action when something impends to go wrong.
People often don’t see change coming. Measuring small changes is important to be able to anticipate on and ‘move with’ a big change process in a good manner.
People often believe that the management team always has the solution, but managers often don’t have the knowledge and skills to solve all problems. To solve complex problems there must be a synergy between the management and the employees.
People often think along the lines of short term goals. Learning and improving is a long term process and must be part of the daily job.
It’s thus important to keep these pitfalls in mind when you as an organization aim for a learning culture that stimulates learning continuously.
Five disciplines of a continously learning organization
To fight these learning limitations Senge describes (surprisingly) five disciplines in his book The Fifth Discipline.
Shared vision. Organization must look for the intrinsic motivated employees with a grow mindset, who want to contribute to the mission and vision of the organization, according to Senge.
System thinking. Managers must realize that the organization is an organic total, and everything is connected. Focussing on details and individual actions takes away the focus on the bigger picture.
Mental models. Employees must be able to identify with the key values of an organization. A unified, joint image of who the organization is, makes it easier for the organization to achieve their goals and even to result in competitive advantage.
Learning in teams. Learning from each other as a team and starting the dialogue is important. The workplace must be a safe space to learn.
Personal mastery. Employees must have the motivation to challenge themselves and develop continuously, on behalf of the improvement of the organization.
Knowledge sharing & communication
In a learning organization not only individual growth is important, but also the growth of the organization as a whole. That’s why knowledge sharing between employees is crucial. To facilitate knowledge sharing a clear goal is important. All employees must aim for that common goal. This goal must be communicate clear to all employees, to prevent confusion. Looking for interesting moments to keep communicating about your online academy? We got you! With our Rakoo seasonal calendar, you will always be informed about interesting moments to engage
Besides, it’s of importance to create bearing strength among the employees for knowledge sharing. It’s important that the management and the board members also do this (top-down). They set a good example in this way. It’s also important that the management and the board give the employees time and space to adapt and work on the set goal. Moreover, enabling early adaptors (employees who are open to an organizational change from the beginning) is convenient to promote knowledge sharing within the organization. Identify these key persons, so they can serve as ambassador of the new learning culture within the organization.
An open culture, based on mutual trust is a requirement for organization broad knowledge sharing. It’s advisable for managers to be transparent, to reward desired behaviour and to bring people from various layers of the organization together. Hierarchy must be on the background. Employees must feel valued and shouldn’t be afraid of negative feedback or change.
A user-friendly online academy can also offer the solution for knowledge sharing. Implementing an academy successfully costs time, but be patient. Demonstrate practical advantages of an online academy for example, and invite a few early adaptors to ‘play’ with the academy. Make sure that using the academy becomes a fun activity, to convince sceptic employees. Academies with forms of gamification (learning in a playful manner) can help with this for example.
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