After my post on Improving Organizational Learning Infrastructure, Daan Assen suggested that it was too limited in reference to the broader Learning Organization picture. That’s valuable feedback, because I really mean it to be the learning organization culture and the technology infrastructure, the latter of which isn’t included traditionally in the learning organization work. Clearly the label has some issues, as Stacy Doolittle also opined, suggesting architecture may be a better word than infrastructure. Still, I’m not convinced that infrastructure isn’t the most inclusive term. Anyone have an opinion?
The reason I mention this, however, is that Daan pointed me to some work by Garvin & Edmondson that provides some nice characteristics of a learning organization. It starts with three factors, a supportive environment, concrete processes and practices, and a leadership that reinforces learning. I think this is a nice breakdown.
These components break up further, so for instance, a supportive learning environment is composed of: psychological safety, openness to new ideas, appreciation of differences, and time for reflection. That latter one really strikes a chord with me, as that was a major barrier back when we were trying to get traction on meta-learning (and we’re not giving up!).
Concrete processes and practices breaks up into experimentation, information collection and analysis, and education and training. I note that it doesn’t seem to capture more about informal learning than just providing the environment, and no mention is made of tools or infrastructure. They may well have reasons for that, but it’s important to me to consider not only the environment, policies, and leadership, but also the channels.
Still, the particular focus on the supportive learning environment is a nice characterization. You need safety, openness, appreciation, and reflection. And your social networking tools will make very concrete any gaps in those. When you see folks not sharing, not tolerating, and not having time, you know you’ve got a barrier. It’s a mirror to see your organization. So, what do you see looking back at you?