Meet the learning organization

Gino Marckx
February 5, 2021

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus was onto something when he said many years ago that

Change is the only constant

A saying as true today as it was for Heraclitus in Ancient Greece.

Today, businesses are impacted by change. Competitors introduce new capabilities or services, customers' loyalty shifts from brands towards value propositions, and new and exciting players disrupt the market altogether.

More than 30 years ago, Peter Senge published The Fifth Discipline, a book detailing the art and practice of the Learning Organization. Today, we are still helping organizations implement those ideas. While many - especially technology companies - consider themselves agile, too few have embraced the essence of what the Learning Organization is all about. And let me be clear, being agile is really about being a Learning Organization.

So what is it?

A learning organization is continuously transforming to be the best version of itself - given the current environment - in a quest to achieve its mission.

This continuous transformation might relate to the processes it follows while delivering value to its customers, the tools it relies upon, the organization of teams, the go-to-market strategy it applies, the branding or even the entire business model. Nothing is safe from being challenged and changed for the benefit of the organization, its employees and its customers.

The big difference with an organization that goes through a reorg exercise every so often is that:

  • transformation is constant and all-encompassing,

  • everyone in the organization drives it,

  • and it is considered a part of the way things work.

Therefore the change is sustainable and lasts until something better comes along. By definition, learning organizations are not reactive but often drive innovation and lead the way for others to follow.

This is not an academic business model or a fairytale. It results from an organizational culture in which transparency, clarity and initiative rule. In which experiments are encouraged, and people celebrate learning. It requires hard work, strong leadership, collaboration and determination to build a learning organization, but the result is refreshing, motivating and infinitely rewarding.

The way forward

At the rate that technology, the market place and the world are changing today, organizations who want to be successful tomorrow need to learn how to learn as effectively and efficiently as possible. They need to become comfortable with continuously transforming and reinventing themselves to stay relevant. They need to embrace change and leverage the opportunities that are hiding in every dark corner. They need to become a learning organization.

            

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