How Can Leaders Facilitate Organizational Learning?

July 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: leadership 

Organizational learning is vital to surviving (and thriving) in a rapidly changing business environment.  Thus, business leaders should strive to create conditions that facilitate organizational learning.  Yukl (2009) provides several examples of approaches leaders can undertake to encourage organizational learning, including (p. 50):

  • Encourage people to question traditional methods and look for innovative new approaches that will be more effective.
  • Articulate an inspiring vision to gain support for innovative changes from members of the organization.
  • Encourage and facilitate the acquisition of skills needed for collective learning by individuals and teams.
  • Strengthen values consistent with learning from experience and openness to new knowledge, thereby helping to create a learning culture in the organization.
  • Help people develop shared mental models about cause-effect relationships and the determinants of performance for the team or organization.
  • Encourage social networks that will facilitate knowledge sharing, collaborative development of creative ideas, and the acquisition of political support for innovations.
  • Help people recognize when important learning has occurred and to understand the implications for the team or organization.
  • Gain external support and financing for major initiatives involving the acquisition or application of new knowledge (e.g., acquisitions or joint ventures).
  • Encourage experiments to gain more knowledge about the likely effects of changes before implementing them on a large scale in a way that cannot easily be aborted.
  • Encourage teams to conduct after-activity reviews to identify effective and ineffective processes.
  • Develop measures of collective learning and knowledge diffusion to assess how well it is accomplished and identify ways to improve it (learning how to learn).
  • Encourage people to acknowledge when a new initiative is failing and should be aborted rather than continuing to waste resources on it.
  • Create decentralized subunits with considerable authority to pursue learning and entrepreneurial activities in a responsible way.
  • Develop, implement, and support programs and systems that will encourage and reward the discovery of new knowledge and its diffusion and application in the organization.

References

Yukl, G. (2009).  Leading organizational learning: Reflections on theory and research.  The Leadership Quarterly, 20, 49-53.

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