How to Build a Learning Organization

Is yours a learning organization?

Are lessons captured and applied in your organization for improving performance?

I asked these questions to Hank Malik in my recent podcast episode. Hank Malik is an experienced knowledge management and transformation lead specialist, practitioner, author, and speaker with over 20 years of work in the fields of knowledge, information change management, and learning and increasing digital transformation.

I can’t agree more with Hank when he said that, as humans, we are prone to learn after a negative event, like an incident. We are generally poor at learning before anything happens to us. 

Yes, it’s human nature to react to problems and issues instead of preventing them from happening.

That’s interesting but concerning at the same time, as every organization can capture so many lessons every day from business results, teamwork, clients feedback, and more. But if there is no mechanism in place to capture these lessons and learn from them, it’s a wasted opportunity.

In my experience, I can say that, very seldom, organizations build processes to learn from lessons.

How can we change that?

Hank shared his process. For him, it’s about creating tangible benefits by taking hints from Lean Six Sigma and Key Performance Indicators and wrapping these around knowledge management and human capital metrics. In other words, we should add knowledge sharing as an indicator for employees’ performance reviews. Not many organizations do that. They evaluate many other competencies, but they don’t tend to consider sharing learning and knowledge too important for individual performance.

But it’s not only about processes and systems. As we all know, we have to change our behaviors first so learning and sharing become habits in the organization.

As Hank suggested, we have to introduce a learning culture by using communities, networks, forums, intranet, and fostering and embedding them in daily activities.

At the core of a learning organization, there is trust though. We have to encourage people to voluntarily share and learn from each other. A good way to encourage people in sharing more is not only by adding performance measurements but also is to praise them and give them incentives that employees truly appreciate. And I don’t think money is the right incentive.

As a final thought, I always say, if you stop learning, you stop winning. As a leader as well as a business.

We learn from our mistakes as well as from each other’s successes. But if we don’t share these lessons, we make a disservice to ourselves and our business.

To listen to the full episode:

004: How to Build a Learning Organization With Hank Malik

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