Learning Disabilities

The Long and Difficult Path to Your Learning Culture

Heidelberg (GER)/Cambridge, MA (USA), November 2019 - Identifying the most common “learning disabilities” in becoming a learning organization is not a straightforward issue. The strength of learning cultures is definitely one of the biggest drivers in business because learning organizations encourage teamwork, independent thinking, and knowledge sharing, and thus they increase efficiency, productivity, and satisfaction while optimizing the ability to adapt to change. These are only a few of the benefits.

However, one crucial question remains: Why it is so difficult and complex to establish a learning culture? This is the result of the way organizations are managed and also how our individual jobs are designed. In his classic, "The Fifth Discipline – The Art and Practice of Learning Organization", Peter Senge defined seven organizational learning disabilities.

  1. "I am my position"
    When somebody asks us what we do for living, we mainly tend to describe the tasks we do, rather than the purpose of the whole organization. This leads to a diminished sense of responsibility for the results produced when all the positions interact within an organization.
  2. "The enemy is out there"
    We concentrate solely on ourselves, and if something goes wrong, we immediately assume somebody else messed up. This is the result of a narrow sense of self-identification.
  3. "The illusion of taking charge"
    Proactiveness is often misunderstood and does not mean that we actively fight enemies. True proactiveness is a result of seeing how our actions contribute to our own problems.
  4. "The fixation on events"
    We are used to seeing everything in short-term events, and for every event there is a specific cause. However, most crucial problems and threats come from slow, long-term processes.
  5. "The parable of boiling frog"
    Place a frog in a pot of boiling water and it will try to jump out immediately. Place the frog in water at room temperature and gradually heat up the water, and the frog will stay put and get used to the heat. We are also very good at reacting immediately to sudden changes, but we are very poor at recognizing gradual threats.
  6. "The delusion of learning from experience"
    Experience is the best teacher, but in never really experience the consequences of many of our most important decisions. Most critical decisions made in organizations have consequences that stretch out over years.
  7. "The myth of management team"
    Most teams operate below the level of the lowest IQ in the group, which leads to "skilled incompetence". The result is teams of people who are good at keeping themselves from learning.

This is the essence of what the "disabilities" are that need to be overcome to become a learning organization. How to overcome these "learning disabilities", how to establish a learning culture, and what learning culture actually means are just some of the questions that were addressed by Paul Jocelyn in his webinar "Learning culture – how to start (and never stop)".