Learning Org. Criteria, Tools, etc. LO29614

From: Fred Nickols (nickols@safe-t.net)
Date: 12/01/02

Responding to Vana Prewitt in LO29611 --

Earlier, in LO29601, Doug Merchant wrote

> > I think it useful to define organizational learning as the process by
> > which the response from past behaviors is fed back the system to shape
> > future behaviors. As such, I think it a mistake to assume all learning is
> > good learning.

Vana replied:

> Thank you Doug for making this point. Not all learning leads to behaviors
>or events we might call "positive" or "good." Organizations learn how to
>be vindictive, deceitful, combative, hateful, self-serving, and
>self-destructive. We've all seen it and certainly have heard about it
>(Enron? World Com?).

That's a stretch for me. Was Enron, the organization, "vindictive,
deceitful, combative, hateful, self-serving and self-destructive," or is
that true only of a handful of senior executives and those who served
them? Ditto for WorldCom.

Doug's definition raises some questions. Feeding back the response from
past behaviors to shape future behaviors could result in future behaviors
that are more or less effective. In turn, this could hinge on whether the
perceptions of past behaviors (and its effects) are accurate, whether the
adjustments in future behaviors based on these perceptions are appropriate
in light of goals or results sought, and whether or not circumstances have
changed in the interim (making implemented adjustments much less effective
than when envisioned). Further, all this, which might be termed the
utility function of the learning (i.e., changes in effectiveness realized
through changes in future behaviors) is colored by value judgments about
the learning (i.e., better-worse, good-bad, etc.). Thus, I can see how I
might be more effective by being more ruthless but choose not to be more
ruthless and instead look for other ways of being more effective. Ditto
for organizations. Absent a universal system of values, I see nothing but
endless debate regarding the "goodness" of any particular learning and a
much more likely consensus regarding the "effectiveness" of any particular
learning. In short, I can see fairly clearly how to judge the
effectiveness of learning but how are we to judge its goodness?

Fred Nickols


Fred Nickols <nickols@safe-t.net>

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