Why a Learning Organization? LO7579

Timothy A. Scott (scottt@convergent.com)
Thu, 23 May 1996 13:40:21 -0700

[Host's Note: This a continuation of an enduring thread begun 2/95. The
collage of responses may be found at

Linkname: Why a Learning Organization?
URL: http://world.std.com/~lo/WhyLO.html

... Rick]

Why a Learning Organization? In a word, prosperity.

The adoption of the new knowledge that goes under the heading the art and
practice of the learning organization offers greater potential to advance
enduring prosperity of people than do most other threads of thought being
proffered today. In other words, it makes the cut. It warrants the
attention of change agents and the investment of organizations scarce

Why are these learning disciplines so vital?

Having spent a great deal of time and energy trying to help organizations
with sorely needed strategic planning, I have come to realize that in
most cases you cant get there from here -- at least not directly.

Increasingly we are aware that the discipline of strategy development,
which has been chagrined in recent years, is vital to growth and
prosperity. Incrementalism and heroic execution is not enough. This
realization comes as new and powerful ideas about strategy are emerging.
We now know:

> That the collective intellectual capital of the organization has been sorely
underutilized in the process.
> That as change accelerates the blindness caused by institutional and personal dogmas
is increasingly crippling.
> That needed change is too often blocked when those with power perceive a threat to
their legitimacy.
> That vitally needed alignment cannot be effectively sold unless divergent
perceptions of the actors have first been reconciled.
> That strategy is theory -- it is a hypothesis that reveals itself only through
disciplined inquiry.
> That static competitive advantage is vanquished by persistent innovation.
> That the role of finance in strategy can only be understood through systems thinking.

To accompany this nascent renaissance in business strategy new personal
disciplines must be propagated. The five disciplines represent the basic
toolset that people will need to contribute to the process. Without them,
the emerging concepts of strategy creation will be frustratingly difficult
to operationalize.

Now, one note of caution.

The question, Why a learning organization? implies a state of
being...and indeed it is a subjective state of being, albeit in
progressive degrees. My trouble is with the label. Labels tend to
obscure thinking, especially in the trendy realm of management ideas.
Change agents say to senior managers, I propose we become a learning
organization. The nod is given, but understanding is lacking.
Meanwhile, other organizations, having had no formal exposure to these
concepts, no learning organization initiatives, are highly proficient in
the disciplines of organizational learning. Hence, the challenge in my
view is not to become a learning organization nor to increase the
number of learning organizations but to propagate the learning
disciplines to people so that they can use them -- in concert with other
ideas -- to increase prosperity and happiness.


"Timothy A. Scott" <scottt@convergent.com>

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