Musings on technology and organizational learning
Sun, 4 Dec 1994 18:48:27 -0500

For several years, I've been working on the notion that technology
(software/hardware) can support organizational learning. While working at
the Institute for the Future, I developed a simple framework for how
technology can SUPPORT learning, borrowing from Bob Johansen's Groupware
4-square model. I started with the idea that learning (or training) takes
place in different venues of time and place.

Same Time Different Time
Same In the classroom In learning centers
Place or other face-to
face settings like

Diff In cross-distance On the job (everyone
Place learning rooms or working/learning
you in your space, and on-the-job)
me in mine

There are various technologies that support learning in these times/places:

Same time/same place
Presentation aids
Electronic meeting support
Simulation software
Same time/different place
Video conferencing
Screen sharing
Different time/same place
Any technology used in a learning center (simulation
software, video, etc.)
Different time/different place
Performance support systems
Conferencing, email
Organizational repositories (like Lotus Notes)

These technologies listed above support learning (in the sense of helping to
acquire knowledge).

Of more interest, however, is whether technology can support organizational
learning, in the sense of assisting people to take effective action. I've
been thinking about whether these technologies can actually be a CATALYST for
organizational learning. Perhaps learning would not take place without the
technology intervention because of the culture (for example, an information
technology group will explore new ways of working/learning using technology,
but will not with people facilitators).

For example:

Same TIme/Same Place
1. Electronic meeting support technologies actually help people learn to
become more effective meeting facilitators or learn about specific
organizational processes just in the act of using the technologies. The
systems essentially serve as a good meeting facilitator. For example, using
these technologies, groups work on total quality initiatives, and in the
process of doing this work, learn about TQM from the system.
CM/1 from Corporate Memory Systems helps people learn to think effectively,
using issue-based reasoning.

2. Simulation technologies support people to look at their simulated actions
in terms of the impact they will have on the real system.

Different Time/Different Place
1. Lotus Notes is used to capture the lessons learned by a team working on
just about anything. The lessons learned can be reviewed by a new team
getting into the same area, essentially giving them a jump start. But a new
team seldom takes the time to attempt to learn from any person from a
previous team.

Has there been discussion of technology/learning organization? I'd love to
see your thoughts here.

As background, my name is Alexia Martin. I'm Director of Techhnology
Solutions at Co-Development International (a 50 person group doing OD
consulting, technology, and learning support). I'm working to introduce
interactive, multimedia kiosks in several large companies. These systems
give employees access to their personnel records, training options, job
postings, benefit options, etc. They also allow the employees to give
feedback to the system designers--so we can improve the system.

Alexia Martin
Co-Development International
12950 Saratoga Ave.
Saratoga, CA 95070
408 366-0466
408 366-0474 (fax)