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Friday, August 21, 2009

Building a Learning Organization – Is that an Oxymoron?

The natural structure we socialize through is a network. This has become evident with the research on social networks as exemplified by the discovery of small world phenomenon. Yet, the way our enterprises have been designed are predominantly hierarchical. Further, knowledge and information work has taken a central position in various businesses. The new world is being re-engineered at such a frantic pace that the organizations are failing to learn, adapt and leverage their expertise. There are unresolved challenges in increasing the learning capability and generation of new ideas in large organizations. These challenges as reflected in the inherent complexity of technology adoption and development, people dependencies and aspirations, infant processes, nebulous understanding of information worker productivity, increasing disconnect between customer needs versus customer wants, globally distributed work and rapid technology churn, combine to produce radically different needs for an organization.

We propose that the organization design should cater for organizational innovation in creating multiple routes to idea fructification. The organization structure should be naturally evolved or designed for continuous learning as a route to innovation. This should include retaining implicit and explicit knowledge, reducing idea to fructification time, enabling experimentation as a route to innovation, tinkering and retaining tinkering knowledge, and enable personal growth, training and career aspirations of employees. In this regard we need to combine inputs from social network analysis, word of mouth marketing, and network science to define and describe a framework for building a learning organization to take care of challenges of the new complexities.

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