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A couple of years ago, the RWE company, Europes biggest energy company invited a jazz band for a leadership conference in order to learn how they manage to play together in a very sophisticated manner with only very few rules. This is why we chose the title of our talk – because successful and playful learning processes and change in organisations are very similar to performing music: either you perform music in a very free manner (like in jazz) or you follow very strict rules (like in classical music) – it dón´t mean a thing if you ain´t got that swing – like Duke Elliungton used to say. Learning – like music – is the art of balancing different styles, types, patterns, processes and values – and that is what our talk will be about - Moni
As Monica already showed: organisational learning is a very complex challenge – which is not just giving expert knowledge to people and help them to adopt this new kind of knowledge Learning in organizations is changing people´s behavior, habits, thoughts and values – if you want to enhance learning, you have to deal with fears and uncertainties, with hopes and dreams of individuals and groups – and with the organizational culture you live in or bring in (as consultants) This requires the art of balancing (or juggling) with different forces. Organizational psychology up tro now has found three balancing acts which are important in order to understand and to enhance learning processes:
The first one is the basic oxymoron of organizational development and learning – a contradiction in itself: You may recall when you have told each other some of your learning stories: learning means to widen the possibilities, to organize means that you decide aboput the way you do things effectively– and forget about other possibilities – and, which may become very important for possible failures, forget sometimes about positive or negative side-effects or alternatives. Many of you will remember the constant tension between learning and organizing while trying to run change projects successfully.
Organizational psychology has dealt with that oxymoron by identifiyng three learning types (Argyris & Schön) Single loop learning is the type of learning which we all know form school – it is the least effective and most expensive type of learning, because it requires a lot of control. Research has shown, that this learning type is preventing students to learn effectively what they are supposed to learn. In classroom situations they will learn a lot – but different things like… Unfortunately, it is also the type of learning still performed most frequently not only in schools and universities, but also in organisations. Effective learning requires to define / to have an impact on the goals and topics. Therefore, double-loop learning – which you could also call advanced learning – does not only require to chnage behavior, but sometimes also change goals. This requires much more autonomy for the learner and a discipline we will look at in a minute – systems thinking. Triple loop learning is the basis for a learning organisation: to develop a learning culture which is fostering continuous learning of individuals and in teams. „It ain´t …“ also means a different way to deal with failures: In order to cope with OD´s oxymoron you have to balance all three learning types…
In order to develop a „learning organisation“ which means a culture of learning in an organisation you also have to balance with different learning dynamics: The criteria for organizational learning, group learning or individual learning are different – and you have to keep track on all three dynamics in order to be successful: i.e. if you only stick with organizational effectiveness and forget about individual or group learning criteria you may be right but without success. If you realize that individual learning is a highly emotional process, it sometimes is necessary to value the failure stories of individuals or groups on an emotional basis. In order to deal with this very important balancing task, Peter Senge and his colleagues of the Organizational Learning Center at MIT gathered hundreds of learning stories to find out patterns of learning.
Finally they came up with five disciplines (or capacities) needed to develop a learning culture in organisation, which integrate individual, group and organizational learning dynamics: Let's take a closer look at these disciplines: Systems thinking is the art of seeing the world in terms of wholes, and the practice of focusing on the relationships among the parts of a system. By looking at reality through a systems thinking &quot;lens,&quot; you can work with a system—rather than against it—to create enduring solutions to stubborn problems in every arena of your life. Practicing this discipline involves learning to recognize &quot;signature&quot; systemic behaviors all around you, and familiarizing yourself with some special terminology and some powerful tools unique to this field. Team learning is what happens when a group of people working on something together experiences that rare feeling of synergy and productiveness that happens when you're &quot;in the groove.&quot; When a team is truly learning, the group as a whole becomes much more than just the sum of its parts. Practicing this discipline involves startlingly different kinds of conversations and a remarkable degree of honesty and mutual respect—all of which you can learn to do through familiarizing yourself with specific tools from this field. Shared vision emerges when everyone in an organization understands what the organization is trying to do, is genuinely committed to achieving that vision, and clearly grasps how his or her role in the organization can contribute to making the vision real. Practicing this discipline involves knowing how all the parts of the organization work together and being clear about how your own personal goals align with those of your organization. Mental models are the deep beliefs and assumptions we hold about how the world works. These models shape the decisions we make in life, the actions we take in response to events, and the ways in which we interpret others' behavior. Practicing this discipline involves surfacing and testing your deepest assumptions and beliefs, and helping others do the same. Again, there are specific tools available from this field that can help you with this practice. Personal mastery is the art of identifying what mark you want to leave on the world during your lifetime. That is, what's your unique purpose in life, and how do you want to go about fulfilling that purpose? Practicing this discipline involves some honest exploration of your own life experiences and desires and a willingness to take some risks.
Especially the dynamics of the „new economy“ has shown yet another balancing challenge for effective learning in organisations: Up to now it is been mostly non-reflected that learning occurs by observing and reflecting the experiences of the past – this is the classical learning cycle. But – new technology, growing complexity of processes and the speed of change requires a new source of learning – which senses the future that wants to emerge. Many of the sucess stories of new economy are based on this – although it has not been developed systematically up to now – and this may also be one of the reasons for the decline of new economy…
Triple bottom line Ausweitung des System-Denkens auf sozialökologische Systemwahrnehmung von corporate social responsibility zu corporate social innovation Vertiefung der Perspektive hinsichtlich der persönlichen Bewußtseinsentwicklung Bezugnahme auf die spirituelle Dimension sozialer Prozesse Erweiterung konventioneller Lernzyklen entdecken sich entwickelnder Zukünfte („presencing“ als 6. Disziplin)
Jim Highsmith, for most of you a well known software developer, consultant and manager - in a small paper reminded me on another challenge which has to be added to the task of balancing. He refers to a book of Stewart Brand, for me one of the most impressive „borderlining“ persons of our time: &quot; How Buildings Learn is a masterful new synthesis that proposes that buildings adapt best when constantly refined and reshaped by their occupants, and that architects can mature from being artists of space to becoming artists of time,&quot; states the cover introduction to a wonderful book on building architecture by Stewart Brand.3 To paraphrase Brand, IT managers and software architects need to progress from being designers of structure to becoming architects of time . If we view the world as stable and predict-able, then change will be viewed as a temporary aberration on the way from one stable place to another. If we view the world from the perspective that everything is unpredictable -- that is, complete randomness -- then we become immobilized with fear and indecision. Architects of time understand that everything does in fact change, but with different-length time cycles. Adaptive managers understand the middle ground: balancing the past and the future, separating stabilizing forces from destabilizing ones, and driving change instead of being driven by change.