Leading The Modern Learning Organization

“The most intriguing leadership role in culture management is one in which the leader attempts to develop a learning organization that will be able to make its own perpetual diagnosis and self-manage whatever transformations are needed as the environment changes.” –Edgar Schein via Organizational Culture and Leadership

Mounting pressures and the intensity of change has levied new and different requirements upon today’s modern organizations. A slow burn, decelerated and reactive stance towards change is a recipe for implemented irrelevance. Today’s organizations are going to have to proactively engineer and design their future. Unfortunately, relying on current and past assumptions, practices, models, mindsets and even traditions will not suffice in a world that is determined to perpetually disrupt itself.

The past tended to presume that our organizations would be pushed in one way or another forward into the future. Unfortunately, that future no longer exists and the free pass into it no longer applies for any organization. We live in a world where everything is ripe for disruption and innovation. And for that reason, the free pass has evaporated. If you want to be a relevant force in the future, then you are going to need to create the organizational significance, worth and value that makes others take note and notice.

The future is there for those willing to take hold and invent it, it just won’t be given freely.

Understanding the shifts occurring in our modern world brings the realization that the rate of everything has been altered exponentially, from the creation and dissemination of information and data to the time allowed to internalize and react upon it. The actual act of learning is being transformed across the whole of society. Learning has not only become an individual and organizational imperative, the speed at which we are being required to do it has altered itself immensely. Speed, not time, to acquire new learning has become the ally to effectively handle the shifts facing today’s modern organizations.

Or as Edgar Schein shares in Organizational Culture and Leadership, “As the problems we encounter change, so will our learning method change.” Which begets the question, are our individual and organizational learning methods changing? Or do our organizational structures, systems and models remain entrenched and grounded in stasis and status quo? We must begin to ask ourselves, are our modern organizations evolving and transforming proactively or reactively to the shifts we see occurring in the world around us?

These are difficult and complex questions that are not accompanied with any easy answers, but questions that we must continue to ask of ourselves and of our organizations. Especially, if our aim is to truly transform our organizations into authentic learning ecosystems.

What is most important is to begin, to take action towards creating and building up these authentic learning ecosystems that evolve our organizations forward into the future. Which will require not only shifts in how we learn and engage, but individual and organizational mindshifts towards the assumptions and practices we apply to our work.

As Schein adds, “The only way to build a learning culture that continues to learn is for leaders themselves to realize that they do not know and must teach others to accept that they do not know. The learning task is then shared responsibility.”

All that is predictable and linear is being efficiently wiped off the organizational landscape. Today’s leaders can no longer believe that they have all the answers and ideas to effectively lead a modern organization into the future. It will require developing the trust, relationships, and collaborative efforts, both internally and externally, to push forward through these most turbulent and uncertain of times. It requires learning at ALL levels of the organization. To push forward creatively and innovatively into the future will not be the work of an individual, as much as it will be a collaborative effort that spans the entirety of the organization.

“As the world becomes more complex and interdependent, the ability to think systemically, to analyze fields of forces and understand their joint causal effects on each other, and to abandon simple linear causal logic in favor of complex mental models will become more critical to learning.” -Peter Senge via Edgar Schein Organizational Culture and Leadership


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