Originally defined by author and senior lecturer, Peter Senge; a learning organisation is a company that has certain characteristics based around a culture of continual learning, sharing a vision and sharing knowledge. This type of organisation uses and harnesses learning to remain competitive in a business environment.
Today, employees have more knowledge than ever before. However, they are often led by managers that are accustomed to an old style of management; telling employees what to do, rather than ask and let them think for themselves. Old-style managers often have a fear that more junior team members could be more skilled/knowledgeable than them.
Today's knowledge workers don’t want to be told what to do, they want to be asked.
By putting trust into the ability of everyone in the organisation, learning organisations challenge the old style of management. The learning organisation is about asking and learning to learn from everyone in the organisation.
Here are the four main benefits of being a learning organisation:
- Greater levels of innovation and remaining competitive
- Having front-line knowledge to address customer needs
- Employees feel valued and have the opportunity to be flexible and creative
- Quickly adapt to internal and external changes – continuous transformation
So how can your business become a learning organisation?
You’ll need to encourage a culture of openness, learning to learn and an environment that supports people to make decisions, try out their ideas and experiment. Consider a change agent, such as an external coach or mentor, to help you lead your team to a new way of operating. Less formal learning such as coaching and learning on the job is much more effective than traditional training programmes and when aligned to the organisation’s strategy it can accelerate growth.
Andy Sleet and Hugo Heij are on the Fluid Business Podcast discussing this article in more detail, listen below: