Why a Learning Org? Replies #2 LO111

Richard Karash (rkarash@world.std.com)
Tue, 14 Feb 1995 21:39:53 -0500 (EST)

This is the second summary of replies to the question, "Why a Learning

If you have more to add, please email to learning-org@world.std.com and I
will summarize as I have with these.

Richard Karash ("Rick") | (o) 508-879-8301 | Mac * Flying
Innovation Associates, Inc. | (fax) 508-626-2205 | Systems Thinking
3 Speen St, Framingham MA 01701 | rkarash@world.std.com | Std. Disclaimer


At the last Bretton Woods gathering, Clair Nuer and Joe Jaworski talked
about the holocaust. I don't mean to be gloomy, but it seems that if we
do not become learning organizations, individually and in community, we
stand the chance of creating something as devastating as the holocaust. I
can imagine 10 years from now, living a poorer quality of life because
we've depleted more natural resources, poluted more, burned out more
people, ...... the list goes on. I like to think that those involved in
creating learning organizations are balancing the need for economic
viability and ccontinuously improving productivity with creating
environments in which people can excel (contribute fully to something that
matters for them individually and collectively).

On a lighter note---people involved in creating learning organizations are
FUN to be with!!


The answer to your question might be a little disjointed but it
generated a flood of ideas that are still percolating!

Why do we want a LO?--because it gives organizations the possibilities
to discover who they are, where they want to go, and define the quality of
life they wish to pursue.

We need to bother because of the issues of complexity and the quality
of life on the earth . Complexity is driven by a feedback loop containing
variables from the social, cognitive, political, organizational, and
technological worlds. These variables have always be with us, but what has
changed is the speed of access to information (compressed information
float time). Mass media, cyberspace, technological artifacts are adding to
the complexity facing all of us. James Burke's Connections is an excellent
example of these loops developing over time. I find within the educational
organizations I work with a disconnectiveness from these variables which
heigthens thier inability to see their relationship to the system.
Introducing the tools of LO has given some a new lens to understand this
disconnectiveness. I am starting to generate many examples but I don't
think you are asking for those at this time.

After reading and listening to Capra, Ackoff, Senge, et al.to me the LO
is part of an evolutionary process.I see the LO evolving into what I would
call (it might already be coined) the Ecological Organization. The EO will
create the "sustainable community" that Capra envisions. This is why I am
pursuing the LO concepts with all the organizations that I work with. What
the LO gives these organizations (schools - businesses) is away to explore
their present assumptions juxtapositioned with new assumptions that will
be found in sustainable communities.

If you ask me what the mental models of the EO are and how they relate
to our present organization I am not sure. But, the essence of the LO will
help to generater the models linked to many of Capra's concepts found in
living systems. For example, given all the recent discoveries in the
cognitive sciences, why do our school systems continue to produce a
byproduct called student failure? If life-long-learning is a vision for
school systems, how would we create a self renewing process that would
enhance all learners and increase the quality of life within the


I see many of the existing organizational forms and processes as
machinelike, where humans are seen as parts of the machine (not only in
trad. bureaucracies). The more quailified the average population is, the
less this will be a possible way to organize cooperation. One possible
solution can be to create something like a learning organization. Vital to
this effort is to understand that there are no finite descriptions of such
organizations, if so they would be no place for learning.


The following quote may be my answer to your question: why have a Learning

Humanity generally acts _as if_ most of the time, especially in collective
action. This is a form of denial. Denial of the consequences of
rationalism. A hopeful denial, but none-the-less, a kind of group defense
mechanism. It is the source of our faith in technology as 911. The western
belief in inventing our way out of a mess.

It seems possible that the learning organization can bring into our
enterprise institutions the possibility of systems thinking in action. And
shorten the feedback loops so that collective action for the general
welfare is not just possible, but expected. Thus the learning
organization, unlike other technologies for business, is not about the
bottom line first. It is about living with paradox and choosing life
affirming values. This is why I think of Bohm's proposal for dialogue as
an epistemological discipline, not a communications technology for
'business'. This is why I believe Bohm insisted it be "agenda free." To
discover what Laszlo refers to below. And the learning organization
appears to be a "state" which could support such a profound change in
view, and act from that change!


Its fun.


In answer to the question why a learning organization, my answer is
simple: why not? It may be the only way we can survive.


Why do we want learning organizations?

I do not know that I necessarily want learning organizations. I think I want
a more effective way to be. Not to do business but, to be. I want to work
in an environment where everyone's needs are met in a way which effectively
serves the whole. Not just the whole of the organization but, the whole of
the community in which we all live. The learning organization offers a
vision, which for me, seems to meet this need.

Why do I want to build learning organizations?

I want to build learning organizations because it gives me energy. I am
truly excited about this work. I have not been excited about work in a long
time. I am deeply interested in creating a learning journey for myself
which, hopefully, serves those who I am working with. By serving others in
an effective manner, I will serve myself in an effective manner. Everybody
will be better off.


add to our data pool):


Why learning organizations?
-To empower people to effect change

Why do we want? -To change attitudinal and institutional
barriers of learning

On a personal level?-Learning is living, living is being open to

What do we want our organization to be?
-"Thriving" rather than "surviving" and achieving
extraordinary results.


Why Learning Organizations?

I'm not sure that the term (learning organization) means much to me in the
way that it does for others. I get what it's about but it covers many
interpretations. Another word like that is 'community' and that is where
my interest lies.

To the extent that a learning organization is a place in which community
is fostered, I want to be in one and help create them. Also it would not
be enough for me to be in a learning organization to become a better
'company man" in the pursuit of an even better widget. (Maybe that's why I
work for myself!)

To me a community has to have a sense of connection to the wider world and
I want my participation in it to contribute to a better world in some way.
So it is with organizations. If my participation is aligned with a larger
goal (making environmentally friendly widgets, expanding access to
learning for parents, encouraging a sense of creativity and spirit,
creating connections among people etc), then I can get excited.

I also want my private aspirations to be respected. I want it to be
legitimate that I spend time writng, making music etc I want my commitment
to my children to be respected and so on.I am from Ireland. Once, many
years ago I heard the leader of a political party talk about how he would
travel the country to meet the people. He said he would be on the road for
many days. His wife later talked about how his children would not see him
for weeks on end. He was following a commitment to make things better for
families yet his own family rarely saw him. This, to me is what we need to
get beyond in learning organizations.

These are initial and un refined thoughts. I look forward to hearing
other thoughts.


The more I reflect, the deeper the answers go. I am involved in learning
about L.O. and bringing it into my work, because all that I read, the
research, the theories, etc. puts words on what I have felt for years but
felt very awkward about expressing.

It's as if the legitimacy of academic institutions gives me the courage to
move ahead with even more of who I am, and help others do so also, thus
creating organizational communities that are more supportive of life, in
the widest and deepest sense of the term.


Healthcare needs learning organizations because the dilemmas in healthcare
today are not simple, they cannot be explained in simple thoughts and

They are the ultimate example of the need for all people to understand how
the systems within their world work through interrelationships, and how
what one part of that world does affects others in ways broader than many
have realized. People must look into assumptions, and beyond perceptions
of healthcare to learn more and gain understanding, in order to make
informed decisions. Leaders must continue to ask why things are as they

Healthcare providers must work toward better business and community
relationships, and the sharing of resources with colleagues, whether is is
across towns or regions. The classic model of competitition will not work
in healthcare provision. Healthcare providers must get their communities
involved and learning in the "business" of healthcare. They must
understand that healthcare is people, not an industry. A dollar spent on
healthcare is a dollar spent by a citizen, not a government or a
committee. The limiting of services is the limiting of services to real
people, not an industry.

That's "why learning organiztions", and why I do what I do--


As I see it,
through the glass dimly (if not darkly),
we learn with the aim to live
more fully,
to become,
simply to contribute--
whether personally, communally, or
more for the world.

We learn
to live more fully
simply to contribute
more for the world.

We learn better
in communion
I think generally
than we do alone--
communion with the
whole world
and beyond the world
that we can see and touch and know

In learning in communion
WE have the simple hope
perhaps the real promise
of doing more
for the world
by being
more in communion
with the world,
and more.

And speaking personally,
as I see it,
that's why.


Why learning organizations?

A learning organization combines the essential elements of strategy
development and personal development. It creates a space for people to
achieve tremendous business and personal results. It values the
scientific method of hypothesis development, testing and validation, as
well as the personal development pathway found in the concepts of
"personal mastery."

Connecting humans to organizations in a vital mutually beneficial way is
why learning organizations are worth creating.

Why do we want learning organizations?

We want to live "divided no more." We want work and personal goals to be
in sync or chosen for legitimate reasons. We want to instill greater
levels of personal commitment and creativity in the work force. We want
to have our work and our organization work be in harmony not at odds. We
want to be able to produce exceptional business results in an ever
changing environment.

Personally, why do we want to build learning organizations?

I believe that such an environment is essential to the continued growth
and development of those who work. I believe that work should not be an
obligation but a joy. I believe that learning and creativiity spark the
future. I believe that without learning organizations we will not be able
to transition into the next millennium and meet the challenges ahead. I
think it is the only way to live and work!

Why do I want my organization be more of a learning organization?

For all of the reasons mentioned above and because we have chosen
strategies which depend on our ability to expand the organization's
capacity to learn and innovate. Without these skills and concepts, we
will probably not achieve our desired results.


"I want learning organizations primarily because I think they provide the
healthiest kind of environment for human beings to be in. I am
secondarily interested in the bottom line effectiveness of organizations,
and I feel that maximum effectiveness is achieved through continuous
learning resulting in continuous improvement."

"I personally am interested in helping people explore alternatives in
their own lives--both personal and professional--and take responsibility
for bringing their personal vision of "better" into reality."


I've been pondering the question of 'why a learning org?' for some
time now. It may sound simple, but I think the answer is because we
want it.
I can take an intellectual tack with talk of self-organizing systems,
various theories of group dynamics, etc.
I can take an emotional tack and approach it from the fundamental
essence that all I encounter here seems to have.
I can take an operational tack and approach from all the great things
improvements, and results we will likely achieve.

But what it really comes down to is that my image of a 'learning
organization' is fundamentally the type of place where I want to work;
where personal growth is valued as much as organizational growth; where
we recognize the essence of the whole and our individual roles.

Speaking for myself, why a learning organization?
Because thats what I want to create.

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