Types of learning LO7301

Ben Compton (BCOMPTON@novell.com)
Wed, 08 May 1996 09:24:10 -0700

Replying to LO7275 --

Dave Birren wrote:

>My conclusion from this is that the nature of organizational learning
>is contingent on culture. We say that teams can be smarter than
>their members, but I haven't often seen that. They tend to be less
>intelligent, less mature, and a lot less secure. I'd also say that the
>larger and more complex an organization becomes, the more likely
>it is to operate at the lowest level.

>I'm not going to try to metricize the variables associated with this
>theory, except to note a possible relationship between
>size/complexity and security needs. Instead, I offer this little
>model to anyone who thinks it's worth looking into.

In my experience the reason an individuals intelligence is greater than a
team is that not all team members are:

- Committed to the purpose of the team
- Are afraid to admit that perhaps some of their views are inaccurate
- People on the team are lazy, and are simply working 8 - 5
- People on the team do not realize how energizing creating
something can be . . . especially something meaningful
- Team members refuse to engage in dialogue

Unfortunately, I have come to the conclusion -- much to my chagrin -- that
most of the people I have worked with in my career simply don't care about
being committed nor do they care about effectively working together to
create something meaningful. I'll even take it a step further: Most people
simply don't have a purpose (or vision), and therefore are totally unaware
of what it means (much less how) to become committed to a shared purpose.

This is frustrating for those few people who do have such capacities (or
at least desire to have such capacities). Frankly, I don't know what can
be done about it . . . it seems to me that people with a lot of personal
initiative and the ability to make commitment to things bigger than ones
self are imperative to effective teams.

One thing I've been toying with is the concept of a jobless society, where
no one is "employed," but rather all work is done on a contractual basis
(excluding the officers of the corporation). I think that such a structure
-- if it is possible (perhaps probable?) -- will fundamentally change the
dynamics of how an organization learns.

This type of system will force people to get out of their comfort zones,
and realize that there ability to produce (personally and as part of a
team) are absolutely essential to their prolonged success. Perhaps the
incentives built into most corporations (or organizations) create their
own learning disabilities. Too many people find a safe place in an
organization, so they can hide out and do very little work (I call these
type of people lurking leaches -- they suck the lifeblood out of an
organization). In a jobless society this type of person will either learn
to swim in the stream, or they'll drown (unless of course the government
takes pity on them).

In fact, I think the federal government is pushing our society in this
direction (probably unknown to the government) because of all the
entangling legislation that governs how a corporation can function. Soon
it will simply be more cost-effective, as well as more liberating, to
build an organization of contractors than it will be to maintain, or
build, an organization of employees.

There are some interesting aspects to this structure: Would it create a
society where the survival of the fittest is the rule of the day? How much
more competitive would our society become? How many currently employed
people would go unemployed on a rather permanent basis? How would the
government react? Would social spending increase? How will the average
individual react? Would they be paralyzed by fear? What would the turnover
rate be in an average corporation? How would organizations maintain their
ability to learn (as well as keeping the knowledge they have already
acquired) if the turnover rate increased? How would this impact formal
education (especially higher education)?

I don't know the answers, but I think there's a pretty good possibility we
will learn from experience.


Benjamin B. Compton ("Ben") | email: bcompton@novell.com Novell GroupWare Technical Engineer | fax: (801) 222-6991

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>