Clark Quinn's Learnings about Learning
(The Official Quinnovation blog)

13 September 2012

Organizational Cognition

Clark @ 4:03 AM

A recent post on organizational cognitive load got me thinking (I like this quote: “major learning and performance initiatives will likely fail to achieve the hoped-for outcomes if we don’t consider that there is a theoretical limit to collective throughput for learning”). I do believe organizations have distributed thinking that they apply to solving problems. Usually this is individual, but how might it be greater than that?

I think back to the Coherent Organization, and how folks are collaborating and cooperating in moving the organization forward. There’s lots of thinking going on, in many ways. Folks are solving problems in formal or informal working groups in many ways, whether achieving organizational goals directly, developing themselves together, and furthering the frontiers of their field in a variety of ways. Individual cognitive load we address through providing resources and tools. How do we reduce collective load?

In short, by making access to social networks, to collaborative media, as easy and ‘ready to hand‘ as possible. We want the focus to be on the task, not the tools. It’s about co-creating a performance ecosystem that works fluidly, seamlessly integrating the different resources we need.

It’s cultural as well as structural. You need to remove the barriers to working well, facilitating the ability to constructively interact by welcoming diversity, sponsoring psychological safety, soliciting new ideas, and providing space and time for reflection. You need leaders who walk the talk, learning out loud.

You can’t do this if you don’t understand how folks work and play together, and what it takes to get you there and stay there. The field continues to develop, but you need to be explicit about how this happen, and actively work to minimize interference with effective flow: communication and work.


1 Comment »

  1. As always, excellent points.

    I think this is a key area of opportunity for organizations. Right now I see a lot of focus on the High Potentials (HiPos).

    However, what really determines an organizations velocity toward goals? It is just the early adopters and HiPos, or is it the speed that you can get the “critical mass” of the organization behind the mission?

    To me, the example of mountain climbing illustrates it perfectly. The speed of reaching the top of the mountain is not determined by the best climbers, but how the team can move together.

    Just as you don’t want climbers to carry unnecessary items (load) and be strongly aligned on the approach to the summit, the same principles apply here.

    Comment by David Glow — 13 September 2012 @ 6:25 AM

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