This is John
Shibley saying hello to the digest. I've been in this work for a
while, and recently decided to pay attention to the digest again.
I wanted to give everyone a virtual, digital nod. My work is
described on my web site www.systemsprimer.com, and I'll direct
anyone there who is curious about what I do.
I wanted to contribute a perspective to the exchanges considering
the difference between the terms "Organizational Learning and the
In practice, I almost never talk about a "Learning Organization"
anymore, and haven't done so for years. In my experiences the
conversations that the term "Learning Organization" created were
just not as useful for clients and students as the ones created by
the term "Organizational Learning".
A "Learning Organization" is something to describe, identify
and/or be. It's a noun.
My experience is that when people talk about a Learning
Organization, they wonder about the thing: they ask "What
constitutes a LO? Who is an LO? Are we one? What do we need to
change to be one? How do I get those idiotic "other people" to be
Further, when the subject is a noun, the natural tendency is to
want it defined, and I have a difficult time defining a learning
organization since I've never seen one. I am forced back on "A
Learning Organization is an organization where collective learning
occurs", which just begs the question.
"Organizational Learning", on the other hand, is a verb. It's
something to do. Where an individual client may not be able to
create a "Learning Organization", everyone can make a contribution
toward organizational learning (although those "others" are no
less idiotic). I can point to lots of useful examples of
organizational learning, times when it happened. Were those
Learning Organizations? Is it an important question?
The conversations that I find the term "organizational learning"
leading to seem more useful to clients. Their questions become
practice questions - They ask "How to we do this? What do we need
to know to do this that we don't know now?" I also find the
term's "verbness" is a good linguistic counter-pressure to the
frequent assumption that action is the enemy of learning.
It's like cooking. I could ask "What is Cooking?" (cooking as a
noun) or I could ask "How do we cook something?" (cooking as a
verb). I find my clients seem to find the second kind of
conversation more helpful that the first. Me too.
Well, I'm back.
Organizational Learning is the end of the war between thinking and
Consultant in Systems Thinking and Organizational Learning
Portland Learning Organization Group, Portland, Maine USA
[Host's Note: Welcome to my friend and sometimes colleague John
John Shibley <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Learning-org -- Hosted by Rick Karash <Richard@Karash.com> Public Dialog on Learning Organizations -- <http://www.learning-org.com>
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