Criteria for "Learning Organization" LO29415

Date: 10/30/02

Replying to LO29393 --

Doug's is almost an archetypal question, arising every now and then in our
discussions. It is bound to arise when we talk about an ideal notion or in
abstraction. It is such questions that prime the entire scientific
enterprise to motion and progress. In the spirit of science, if you can
see something (even if it is not there in the everyday world), you should
help others to see it as well. If it cannot be 'seen' in the conventional
sense, then at least its instances can be pointed at. If pure instances
are rare, then negative-instances can be discussed to understand what it
is not. Another option is to use approximate instances. If no approximate
instance can be found, then an artificial one can be constructed, at least
for demonstration purposes! Doug and other inquirers, you can see all
these approaches used in the LO discussions. The LO list itself is
sometimes discussed as an (artificial?) instance of a learning

I humbly suggest that learning organisations are best appreciated once
both organisation and the task of organising are appreciated. Although it
is not necessary, an organisation can be seen as a mousetrap, designed and
operated to deal with a challenge (those Hindus and others who worship
mice, kindly forgive the comparison). Now consider this: 'Whenever man
comes up with a better mousetrap, nature immediately comes up with a
better mouse.' (James Carswell). One has to go on redesigning the
mousetrap to deal with this tendency of nature. It can be a continual
process of improving the mousetrap, until the effort to improve it becomes
too much. Then you decide that trapping mice is not interesting any more.
You may decide to learn from them (e.g., the effectiveness of drugs or
strategies of learning) or even start treating them with real respect.

LOs are like mousetraps that keep improving until they start incorporating
mouse-friendly practices that enhance overall well-being. This might be
used as a (new?) framework to look for LOs. Accordingly, you may look for:

Organisations that have a clear sense of the challenge they are addressing
Organisations that identify how the challenge itself is becoming stronger,
more resilient
Organisations that alter themselves in response to this above
Organisations that keep succeeding in dealing with the challenge over a
long period
Organisations that realise that such effectiveness cannot be sustained for
Organisations that find a different perspective altgether to give a new
meaning to their task
Organisations that maintain a sense of overall well-being that becomes more
encompassing over time

Respectfully yours,


Doug Serrano <> wrote:

>I need help ... are there any good references for solid criteria by which
>to determine whether or not an organization is truly a "Learning
>Organization"? How do you know if you are in one or not?


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