Intro -- John Shibley LO30870

From: John Shibley (
Date: 01/05/04

   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, 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
   "Learning Organization".

   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
   in one?"

   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

   John Shibley
   Consultant in Systems Thinking and Organizational Learning
   Portland Learning Organization Group, Portland, Maine USA 207.761.0322

[Host's Note: Welcome to my friend and sometimes colleague John
Shibley! ..Rick]


John Shibley <>

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