In this paper we will define what it means to be a learning organization, why being a learning organization is an essential part to being successful in todays climate. We will look at the initial steps to becoming a learning organization and give a comparison to the organization I am currently apart of.
What does it mean to be a learning organization?
According to Business Dictionary the definition of a learning organization is “an organization that acquires knowledge and innovates fast enough to survive and thrive in a rapidly changing environment” (Dictionary, B. (n.d.). In the textbook book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, Peter Senge defines the learning organization for us, he states that “organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning how to learn together” (Senge, P. M. (2013).
A few examples that immediately come to mind of this type of organization are Apple and google. These organizations are known as places where constant learning of the employees is facilitated, and create a culture that both encourages and supports the continuous learning of its employees. These organizations support and develop the critical thinking, and risk taking by encouraging new ideas from their employees. These organizations ensure their employees are provided with constant training sessions and are not only familiar with the latest technologies but encouraged to develop new ones. By being this type of learning organization and allowing for mistakes and learning from them, as well as valuing the contributions made by their employees Apple and google have proven to be organizations that learn from experience and are willing to try new things to improve its processes and stay at the fore front of the development of new technology. “Google is relying heavily on innovation to grow. The company hires the “best and brightest” (top schools, top GPAs, regardless of age and experience) and has created a work environment which is the envy of any Generation X or Y employee. Gourmet cafeterias, flexible working conditions, and the “20%” policy which enables each and every employee to spend up to one day per week working on a special and innovative project of their own. Few companies today can afford to lavish such luxuries on every employee” (Bersin, J. (2008, April 10).
Why is it important to be a learning organization in today’s world?
With the invention of the internet and instant access to information from all around the world things are advancing quicker than ever before. In this fast changing world, being able to change quickly and efficiently is very important. Organizations today must always be learning and changing how they do business in order to be competitive and improve and develop new products. Without learning, an organization will not be able to compete for long in todays market place. “Not only should your organization understand the basics of training and development, but you must integrate it with the company’s talent practices (career progression and leadership) and also create a “culture of learning.” As Peter Senge and many others have uncovered, learning culture is perhaps the most important asset a company can build” (Bersin, J. (2013, March 20). Those who fail to train train to fail, so a learning organization has many benefits when compared to non learning organizations.
What are the first steps to becoming a learning organization?
In the textbook book The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, Senge gives us an example of the structure of a learning organization with a collection of disciplines which he believes must come together to form a true learning organization. I will describe the first discipline so that we have a better understanding of the components that help to create a learning organization. The first discipline is Practices: what do you do? The second one is principles: guiding ideas and insights. The third one is essences: the state of being of those with high levels of mastery in the discipline (Senge, P. M. (2013).
With practices this will be the thing that people learning a discipline will put their time and energy into. Once someone’s practices have become second nature then they can move into the second disciple of developing their principles for the organization. These will be their guiding ideas that lead them into insights and growth. Like with learning any new skill practice makes perfect. In order for an organization to change into a learning one the organization has to change what it does or does not do on a daily basis.
After 20 years in the military and writing this assignment I can clearly see how the Military is a learning organization. “General David Petraeus wrote “The Army/Marine Field Manual on Counterinsurgency.” In this manual, he repeatedly refers to the importance of learning as the key to success in any operation. According to Petraeus, “Learning done before deployment results in fewer lives lost and less national treasure spent relearning past lessons in combat.” This statement certainly applies to all businesses as we “deploy” people to a project or job. General Petraeus also says that “The side that learns faster and adapts more rapidly—the better learning organization—usually wins. Counterinsurgencies have been called learning competitions.” One might say that all businesses are engaged in a learning competition” (White, J. (2011, February 27). By putting the right people in the right positions, constantly developing and changing our practices we truly are a learning enviorment.
In conclusion the definition of a learning organization is to be an organization that acquires knowledge and innovates fast enough to survive and thrive in a rapidly changing environment. We answered why being a learning organization is important to being successful in todays climate because organizations today must always be learning and changing how they do business in order to be competitive and improve and develop new products. We gave the initial step to becoming a learning organization by mastering our daily practices, this will lead into the other disciplines of being a learning organization. Finally, I give showed how the organization I am currently apart of is a learning organization.