Why a learning organization? LO29183

From: AM de Lange (amdelange@postino.up.ac.za)
Date: 09/16/02

Replying to LO29171 --

Dear Organlearners,

Fred Nickols <nickols@safe-t.net> writes:

>I do NOT agree that "an organization is a living organism."
>To speak of organizations (e.g., corporations) as "living"
>or "dying" is to use a figure of speech.

Greetings dear Fred,

Your remark made me think of the animal world. What about a nest of ants
or a hive of bees. Is this organisation of insects not a living organism
which can live or die? What about an entire school of whales which
occasionally commit genocide for some mysterious reason.

I think with you that we should not stretch the meaning of any word too
far because it may become less useful. In the case of organism we could
revive the word "organon" of Aristotle to refer to an organisation of
organisms of the same kind which live together and then for some reason
die off together.

By the way, in the world of succulent plants such an "organon" is
frequently observed when it dies off. In this case the reason is always
that the "organon" cannot adapt fast enough. Succulent plants have by
their very nature a slow metabolism. For example, they cannot adapt to
sudden NEW changes in their environment brought about by humankind's
changes of the climate.

>Who says they should continue? What is wrong with
>organizations "dying" (to use a figure of speech)? Some
>where, some how, there seems to have arisen this notion
>that organizations should go on forever. Why is that?
>Frankly, I think that's a bad idea.

I think the notion has arisen because people belong to an organisation
often get hurt when that "organon" dies. They get hurt because they have
not learned how to look after themselves -- and likewise others have not
learnerd how to care for them -- when that "organon" dies. That is why
they want the "organon" to live forever.

Here in South Africa with its 1st, 2nd and 3rd world dimensions as well as
many cultures many organisations make use of workers as kind of robots.
(Bridging these three dimensions and the many cultures seems to be an
impossible task.) They have to be trained to do a job. Then they do that
job for years without any further training while doing that job.
Furthermore, these organisations do the pension, medical aid, housing and
income tax as benefits for these robot workers. When one of these
organisations "dies" (the "organon" dies ;-), it brings disaster for such
workers when the unemployment rate is higher than about 10%.

Applying sanctions to a country is more evil than even war. The
unemployment rate shots up, in most cases, never to come down again. It
can be said of war that it at least reduces the unemployment rate. But i
would not like to choose between these two evils. See below what i would

>Moreover, in some circumstances, I believe organization
>should be torn down, so to speak. I am glad, for example,
>that certain political regimes are no longer with us. I hope
>that certain others will soon disappear.

Here i believe somewhat differently. Organisations should be
reformed unless, like you have said
...'when mistakes (or even factors other than mistakes)
    alter the "fundamentals" of a business that its
    sustainability comes into play.'
The fundamental key to such a reform is profound learning through
the entire organisation -- creating bridges rather than burning them.
This is what we want to express with the Sengean concept of a
"learning organisation".

Thank you Fred for your creative questioning -- it makes us think.

>I am glad, for example, that certain political regimes
>are no longer with us. I hope that certain others will
>soon disappear.

Fred, how will you know when a government is a political regime?

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <amdelange@postino.up.ac.za> 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 <Richard@Karash.com> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <http://www.learning-org.com>

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