In today’s global economy a profitable company must become a learning organization if they want to experience sustainability. As the world becomes more complex and businesses become more interconnected organizational leaders must encourage an environment that embraces group learning practices. Organizations that excel will be the institutions that discover how to inspire commitment and the capacity to learn from personnel at all levels. In the early forming and norming stages of an organization for example, everyone is learning how to work together, figuring out what systems succeed, which do not, and develop adaptations for more effective performance. In addition, modern brain imaging techniques, previously unavailable prior to the year 2000, reveal that it is almost impossible to retain new information unless it is emotionally relevant. For example, stress and fear create environments that encourage learning disabilities. Leaders who use fear and intimidation in their organization are likely to constrict the learning process (Reason, 2010).
Organizational cultures where individuals can learn together and expand their capacity to create desired outcomes; where innovative and expansive patterns of reasoning are nurtured tend to experience more success. Now that the economies and businesses have become more global, cost and performance pressures are unyielding. Time required for assessment and reflection is becoming scarcer and the production of financial capital seems to happen at the expense of social and natural capital (Senge, 2006). Take for example the recent debacle in the pharmaceutical industry where thousands of people have been afflicted from a deadly fungus because of the organization’s failure to learn how to conduct safe business practices. As a result they performed inadequately due to pressures from large profits and consumer demands. Organizations that fail to assess and make adjustments to rapid growth and expansion can in severe cases like this, place the public in harm’s way. Consumer fatalities are an extreme consequence for any organization to work through. It reflects a company that requires changes not only from an organizational level, but from individuals as well.
The truth is that people are constantly discovering how to learn together. In fact, the entire global business community is discovering how to learn together and is evolving into a learning community. In the long run, an organization’s ability to learn faster than the competition will likely be the key component to their profitability and sustainability. Many of us for example, have been a part of a great team or group of people that functioned together in an extraordinary way, whether in a sporting event, an organizational environment, or in a theatrical arena. There was trust, recognition in each other’s strengths and compensation for each another’s weaknesses. Everyone worked together for a common goal that was larger than individual goals. A cohesive union was created that produced extraordinary results. The team perhaps did not begin with a great start, but experienced greatness because people learned how to work together to produce extraordinary results. This is the experience of a successful learning organization and the driving engine that motivates and inspires individuals to become a part of one.
Reason, C. (2010). Leading a learning organization. Bloomington, IN : Solution Tree Press.