(Blog Repost from April 10, 2013)
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 instance, most leaders are not mindful that stress and fear create environments that encourage learning disabilities. Therefore, leaders who use fear and intimidation in their organization as a strategy are most 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 in reaching their goals.
In the meantime, now that 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). If organizations are unable to address these changes it could lead to disastrous outcomes. Take for example, the recent debacle in the pharmaceutical industry where scores of people were afflicted from a deadly fungus because of the organization’s failure to learn how to conduct safe business practices as their company expanded. As a result they performed inadequately due to new pressures from larger 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 that individuals as well, take accountability for their actions.
The reality is that people are constantly discovering new methods of learning together. In fact, the entire global business community is discovering new ways to learn together in this ever evolving learning community. In the long run, however, an organization’s ability to learn faster than their competitors will most likely be the key component to their profitability and sustainability. Many of us for example, at one time or another, have been 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. It worked because trust was developed, there was mutual recognition in each other’s strengths, and compensations were made for each another’s weaknesses. In short, everyone worked together for a common goal that was larger than each individual goals and a cohesive union was created that produced extraordinary results. Perhaps the team did not begin with a great start, but were able to experience greatness because the people involved learned how to work together to produce extraordinary results. This is one formula for creating the experience of a successful learning organization that provides the driving engine to motivate and inspire individuals to reach their highest potential.
First comes thought; then organization of that thought, into ideas and plans; then transformation of those plans into reality. The beginning, as you will observe, is in your imagination. – Napoleon Hill
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Reason, C. (2010). Leading a learning organization. Bloomington, IN : Solution Tree Press.