Criteria for "Learning Organization" LO29613

From: Richard Karash (
Date: 12/01/02

Replying to LO29591 --

Mark, reading your words below has given me a hint about why I have a
reaction to your original comment ("..all organizations are learning
organizations; show me an organization that does not learn!"). And, why
you probably have the same reaction to my original comment ("I see the
Learning Organization as an ideal.")

You wrote,
> Let's not confuse learning (the process) with knowledge (the outcomes).

When I say learning, I _am_ talking about a result, not a process. To me,
learning is an increase in knowledge, an increase in one's capacity for
effective action in the world.

>From your note (below), I think you might say "learning is the process
that produces knowledge." Your statement sounds OK at first, but fails
for me after some thought. I think there is ambiguity in our language
between the process and the change that process produces.

If I see some people going through the motions with no result, I would not
say, "Look over here, these people are learning." On the other hard, if I
see at the end of a year that a group can confidently and correctly do
things they could not do at the beginning of the year, then I would say,
"Wow! This group is really learning!"

When I want to speak of the process, I'll refer to "the learning process."
Or practice... or study... or reflection... or whatever form of learning
process they are following. As you suggested, it can be very valuable to
look at the finer details of this process.

Whatever the process, I don't consider the result "learning" unless it has
increased our capacity for effective action.

And, back to one of the original points, I think many organizations... and
many people... during many periods of time... do not demonstrate learning.
That is, there is no increase in their ability to produce desired results.

Does this help any?

   -=- Rick

p.s. Using At de Lange's symbology, I could write:

    learning = /_\ knowledge ...or...

    learning = /_\ capacity for effective action

Where /_\ is an approximation in our e-mail medium of the mathematical
symbol for "change in some quantity."

At has been writing here for some time about the distinction between being
and becoming, and I now think the tendency to confuse these in our
language is creating part of the confusion here.

   -=- Rick

>An organizational failure is NOT necessarily a failure to learn.
>Organizations can fail for many other reasons. Indeed, some organizations
>learn often and well, but fail to learn the truth, if you will. Let's not
>confuse learning (the process) with knowledge (the outcomes). We can have
>exemplary performance in the former even as we experience dubious outcomes
>in the latter.
>PODOLSKY,JOE (HP-Cupertino,ex1) wrote:
>>By definition, organizational failure is a failure to learn. It's
>>relatively easy for us with 20/20 hindsight to see first the organizations
>>that died and then note where they went wrong. The challenge is to tease
>>out those principles from the past that help us steer more wisely into the
>>unknown future.
>>It isn't easy. Peters and Waterman found good companies and set out good
>>principles in "In Search of Excellence," and time and events proved them


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