In today’s fast-paced digital world, building organizations that continuously foster learning seems like the right thing to do, but although Peter Senge has advocated for the creation of such learning organizations already 30 years ago, it is still hardly done in practice. The big challenge is the implementation of the approach, the general understanding of how organizations work as systems, and how people living in those systems influence them. Dennis Hambeukers wrote a great article on how learning organizations can finally become a reality when we create organizations that reflect the five disciplines (shared vision, systems thinking, mental models, team learning, and personal mastery) and implement them with the help of five technologies (user-centered design, design thinking, service design, lean startup, and agile practices) that modern (tech) organizations typically use. What Dennis Hambeukers suggests is common practice in many tech companies and startups, but we don’t see a lot of learning organizations emerging. This might have many reasons, what I learnt from working in an organization that had implemented the aforementioned concepts is that we also have to look at management systems and one very crucial component: a communities of practice framework. But before we continue talking about that, let’s look at learning first and how it works as a practice, and what might prevent organizational learning at scale.
Before we learn, we have to learn to distrust our confidence
The Dunning-Kruger-Effect is a psychological effect that describes on an individual level how or overconfidence in our abilities often prevents learning. Collectively this affects how we structure our organizations, preventing a lot of people from learning, as we are convinced that we already know how it is done best when in reality, we are still high up on the peak of “Mt. Stupid”.
The core concept could be summarized as:
“We as human beings trust ourselves the most when we have basically no clue.”
Let me rephrase this:
“We actually believe that we are brilliant because we have no clue.”