Fostering a Learning Culture LO26586

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 04/28/01

Replying to LO26554 --

Dear Organlearners,

Mayur Dogra <> writes:

>I am currently part of a team engaged in assessing the
>structuring of "Learning" in our organisation.
>As such I would be very grateful to you if you could kindly
>give me some direction on the current techniques, processes
>and systems which could help operating managers in fostering
>a Learning culture in the organisation.

Greetings Mayur,

I am deeply under the impression that you write from India and not one of
the fist world countries. I wil try to bear it in in mind when answering

There are thousands of books and much more papers on learning. Then there
are also the books by Peter Senge on learning organisations. But I ask
myself, why is Mayur asking this direction because I am sure that he/she
can lay eyes on much of this information?

I myself often wonder why anyone (including me), although knowing a lot
about learning in individuals and organisations, often fails to guide them
into an endless culture of learning. I wonder whether this is not the
reason for Mayur's enquiry? What exactly has to be done so that a culture
of learning, whether an individual or an organisation, will definitely

I personally believe that learning is the very process which humans have
to follow consciously to become more complex in mind. Learning without
increasing mental complexity is impossible. Does this mean that learning
causes increasing mental complexity, or is learning that very increase in
mental complexity? I personally believe that learning is "increasing
mental complexity" rather than causing it. Consequently, if we want to
foster a culture of learning, we will have to promote that increasing
mental complexity.

Obviously, the question now is: What is complexity? I myself have a rather
exceptional description of it -- complexity is the whole of all the
perceptions of all humans from all over the globe through all the passage
of time. This means that learning as "increasing complexity" has to deal
with the endless perceptions of humankind. In other words, when I as a
teacher try to force or control a learner not to explore certain
perceptions of certain persons for whatever reason, I actually work
against "increasing complexity", i.e. learning.

The most serious error we can make is to assume that the past learning of
sombody is simple rather than complex. Such an assumption usually leads to
the notion of substituting a learner's past learning with something else
which will be better. In my opinion this is a grave error. Whatever new
learning I intend to foster, it has to beging with the past learning of
the learner, even when I want to foster something completely different to
the past. It takes hours to change the course of a super oil-tanker. It
takes years to change the course of a learner.

Mayur, I would strongly advice you to begin with the current learning of
every member of your organisation. You might not be happy with the
learning of some members and you may even think that there is no learning
at all in some other members. Whatever you think, override it and try to
find what learning is actually happening in every member. Then begin to
promote the learning of each member further, keeping in mind where your
organisation wants to go. Do not force the learner to follow that
direction, but rather paint to the learner a picture in which the
direction you want to go, is always part of the picture. Leave it to the
learner to decide in what direction the next step will be, even if it
seems to be foolish.

Never assume that the learner cannot think for him/herself. It might have
been so in the past and also be so in the present. It may be so even for
the near future. But sooner or later, provided that you keep on painting
pictures for the learner of what is going on according to you, that
learner will begin to increase in complexity in such a way that you will
be delighted and others will benefit from it.

Never forget that the learner is subjected to all kinds of information
from left, right and centre. The only one who can decide for the purposes
of learning which information is beneficial and which information has to
be disregarded, is the learner self. Should the learner make an error
(according to you) in deciding, your role is not to override that
decision, but to sustain the learner in discovering that his/her decision
is erronous and thereafter to help the learner to try something better. Do
not try to control the learner with your own learning, but rather help the
learner to use his/her past learning to manage future learning.

Help the learner to overcome the zeal for judgement. There is nothing so
deadly to learning than to judge. Help the learner to become more creative
. To learn is to create.

>[Host's Note: Mayur, thank you for your inquiry... Let's
>see what responses we get from the readers here! ..Rick]

Dear Rick, did you read the tacit request too -- why so little learning in
any person (not Mayur as such) despite so much learning around that
person? I think that it all has to do with the irreversible
self-organising nature of learning. Such irreversible self-organisation of
the learner will be vitally influenced by the environment of the learner.
The environment can make or break a learner. A main goal of a Learning
Organisation is to provide for each of its members that environment which
will make rather than break them as learners. Is it possible to accomplish
that goal by not asking the members what constrains their learning? Is it
possible to point out such constraints in anything else than a LO

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <>

"Learning-org" and the format of our message identifiers (LO1234, etc.) are trademarks of Richard Karash.