Learning Human

Norman Frank (nfrank@cap.gwu.edu)
Sat, 24 Sep 1994 18:21:35 -0400

Based on some requests, plus a request from the manager I am posting
my think piece on the learning human to help generate thoughts and
The Learning Organization - A Concept

As I understand it, the "learning organization" is one that has
come to the realization that continuous learning is necessary but
not sufficient for survival of the organization. An
"organization" is normally meant in the literature to be a
company or similar organization (e.g., division, factory), but a
simple extension can encompass the human organization.

Before you can have a "learning company" you must have one or
more groups of learning "humans". Before you can have a group of
learning humans you must have at least one learning human. As
the saying goes, "if it is to be, it is up to me." This is the
point that I have reached within my company. There is no
recognition that the company must continue learning for it to
survive. Most of the employees believe that, "if the company
thinks I need training, then the company will have to pay for it
and will provide it during company time. My time is my time."

I have taken it upon myself to learn more and more about my
profession (the field of quality), regardless of who pays for the
learning. Thus, I sign up for any classes offered through the
company, attend lectures at the local museum (Smithsonian), and
read books in my free time. The television is on all the time
(I'm a child of the 50's), but only selected programs are

Books are very expensive, particularly technical books aimed at a
limited audience. Being resourceful I went to a national
conference in my field and made a point of visiting all the
publishers of technical books. I told them I would be willing to
do pre-publication and publicity reviews if they would send me a
copy of the book. Because I would receive no remuneration I
didn't promise them a review of every book they sent.

The first year I received only a few books (about five), but my
reviews were published in a national magazine covering my field.
The second year at the national conference, the publishers
listened much more closely because I was able to show them that
the reviews I had done were being published. From the second
year on I have received upwards of 30 books each year from six
publishers, all for free! These are the latest books available
and often have not yet been released to the public! There are 10
books on my shelf waiting for my review right now. I make it a
point to send copies of all my reviews to the book's publisher.
This let's them know I'm for real.

When do I read these books? I am lucky to have a 30 minute
commute by train to and from work -- an hour a day. It is
amazing how many books you can read each year in just an hour a
day. I mark up the books as I read them with comments that can
be worked into a review. When I have finished the book, it takes
just another hour to write a finished review. The computer merge
function allows quick mailing to all newsletter and magazine

Why do I write this? To show others what can be done with a
little initiative. You don't have to be rich to have a complete
library of the latest books. You can continue learning without
much effort, if you take advantage of your free time. I can't do
much about changing the attitudes of people who believe they have
no responsibility for their own learning or career. That is
something they will have to recognize and take action on.

Norman C. Frank
MCI Mail:  4573434
Internet:  4573434@mcimail.com
Internet:  nfrank@cap.gwu.edu