Measuring Learning Externally LO6669

Peter H. Jones (
Sun, 14 Apr 1996 16:15:26 +1200

Replying to LO6369 --

Replying to Brian's

>For my research (PhD), I am keen to understand what qualities a
>Learning Organisation exhibits to the outside world and whether these
>can be measured and compared with other non-learning companies. My
>only idea to date, is to take an industry and a well-publicised
>discontinuity and to analyse how quickly and how well companies have
>either anticipated or responded to the event.
>Second, it would seem to be accepted that individuals and indeed the
>organisation can make mistakes in the *short-term* in order to achieve
>real and sustainable competitive advantage in the *longer-term*. My
>question is, over what period of time should a Learning Organisation
>be judged? If it is too long then shareholders will perhaps switch to
>another company's stock/shares.

I feel such measurements are relative and that tells you nothing useful
really. Some organisations I've worked with have adapted more quickly than
others to (for example) recent Health & Safety Legislation changes. And in
one case the rapid learning only occurred after a serious accident and
consequental court case. Rather like the doggy story below:

Let's suppose there are two dogs. And doggy one, while growing up, bites
a child. (A mistake). This leads (excuse the pun) to swift kick in the
rear from doggy one's owner. And doggy one never bites another child in
its life. Doggy one is a fast learner folks! Meanwhile, doggy two next
door occassionally growls at children all through its life, but never
actually bites any. And probably, later in life, gets a reputation for
being a grumpy old dog (relatively).

I'll leave you to decide which dog you would rather own.

So for me the issue is not simply how fast an organisation learns but what
is learned and how that learning is percieved and applied. All of which
requires a whole lot of measures to determine.

I attended a meeting recently and a speaker from the New Zealand
Qualifications Authority made the following points:

Eighty five percent of the people in our workforce have traditionally had
very limited access to higher education (learning opportunities). And the
other fifteen percent are now telling them that they should become life
long learners. But... their perception of what learning means and what it
means to the fifteen percenters is quite different.

He said, 'they don't necessarily perceive life long learning in a positive
light. And that he himself had a recurring nightmare:

He arrives at the pearly gates and St Peter greets him with the words -

"Welcome to heaven and Learning for Eternity."

Oh no! he said, all I wanted was my fishing rod. Oh no!'

But I do think he was making a valid point. Early life experiences have
conditioned many people to shun what the fifteen percenters would see as
great opportunities.

So isn't the real challenge to create natural positive learning
environments where the emphasis is towards learning that adds value for
the individual, the organisation, and the larger society within which that
organisation operates. (Three dimensions)

To return to Brian's orginal problem. Maybe some kind of ranking system
against a range of criteria could be developed that would measure learning
in a three dimensional sense. Shareholders will of course make their
choices according to the dimension that they percieve as being the most

Regards Peter
Peter H. Jones - Peopletronics, PO Box 30 451, Lower Hutt, New Zealand.
Tel/Fax 64 4 569 8875. Home Page

-- (Peter H. Jones)

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <> -or- <>