Learning Org. Criteria, Tools, etc. LO29658

From: Douglas Merchant (dougm@eclipse.net)
Date: 12/05/02

Replying to LO29653 --

"AM de Lange" wrote:

> The word "external" in your sentence caught my attention. It made me
> wonder why you used it.
> It seems that you claim that feedback loops are sufficient for
> organisational learning. If that would be the case, it implies for me that
> other "internal" criteria would not be needed.

Earlier in this thread Fred Nickols wrote: "Absent a universal system of
values, I see nothing but endless debate regarding the "goodness" of any
particular learning ..."

In response I wrote:
"My point was that organizational learning can happen (the response from
organizational behaviors can be fed back and shape future behaviors) without
the guidance of any external criteria, including "goodness" or
"effectiveness". "

In part, I used "external" because a "universal system of values"
mentioned by Fred would be external to any specific organization.

More generally, I think the issue of internal or external "learning
criteria" gets a little fuzzy. With Natural Selection, the learning
criteria is external to those selected (and the level of learning happens
such that the individual participants are unaware of what was learned or
that any learning has taken place). Likewise, over the long term,
organizations survive because they "learned" to behave in ways that were
"valued" by the external world. However, organizations can also "learn"
behaviors that are antithetical to their long term survival. I suspect
the criteria for these "shorter term" learning's are frequently internally

As far as your second question, strictly speaking, feedback loops are
necessary but not sufficient for organizational learning. There has to be
mechanisms which use such feedback to shape future behaviors. I am
uncomfortable calling these mechanisms "Criteria". For me, criteria
implies at least a modicum of conscious choice and purpose that isn't
required for organizational learning. In general, I think organizations
utilize three types of mechanisms to store and utilize feedback, "symbols
& rules" (hierarchy), "populations & selection mechanisms" (markets),
"networks and the fabric of relationships" (clans).


doug merchant dougm@eclipse.net

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