In an earlier post I indicated that during my research on ‘Managing Wikis in Business’ I was interested in finding out how themes of the ‘learning organisation’ can aid and be reflected in the management of wikis in business, and the extent to which such management can in turn encourage organisational learning and foster collaborative behaviour. Whilst there is still some lack of clarity regarding the distinction between the ‘learning organisation’ (end form) and ‘organisational learning’ (means), interwoven themes are apparent and common to both.
John Moss Jones (OU) summarises those themes and their relationship as follows:
“In order to perceive the [learning organisation] concept the organisation needs to be perceived with a systems perspective. The leadership group is the prime mover in establishing vision and identity, and modifying the internal culture. The vision must give high priority to people issues to maximise learning, for people are the vital element in learning. The ongoing learning needs to focus on challenging existing mind-sets, and developing creativity, adaptiveness, effective team working, and feedback. And taking all these together, it is argued that the whole organisation needs to develop a culture which promotes all these themes continually.”
‘Systems thinking’ is a cornerstone of the ‘learning organisation’. It encapsulates the idea that business behaviour like complex systems. As such they should be viewed holistically in terms of their subsystem connections, and how changes to one sub-system affect or can be affected by other subsystems.
‘Leadership group’ refers to the new view of leadership, where managers are designers, stewards and teachers, and are vital for encouraging the generation and spreading of new ideas/practices about purpose, values and vision. ‘Vision’ requires the maximum number of people to contribute to and share a picture of where the organization is going in terms of its external context (e.g. target products/clients) and internal design, development and operation. ‘People’ includes the principal and often “massive undeveloped potential” that exists within every organization, and raises issues about creating and sustaining cultures/processes to tap that potential.
‘Learning’ refers to double-loop learning which requires challenging existing mindsets that form the basis of (possible out-of-date) behaviour and affect perception of feedback. It probes the cause of things going wrong at a system level rather than simply identifying and correcting errors within existing organizational routines. The ultimate goal being to spread such learning from individuals and teams throughout the organization, ensuring that work experiences are captured, consolidated and disseminated so as to create new capabilities as a whole.
Within that learning process, ‘teamwork’ involves working across organisational boundaries, questioning routines and providing feedback. ‘Creativity’ and ‘adaptiveness’ are required to cope with rapidly changing environments and act upon learning by altering behaviours. That requires generating attitudes, processes, skills and knowledge, and translating them into more effective organisational practices. Finally, feedback is central to systems thinking, and critical to learning and adaptation, because “current perceptions of what is going on must continually be as close as possible to ‘reality’” (Moss-Jones (2005)).