Volume 14, May 2002: Learning Organizations

Keyzine: An E-zine for Leaders about the People Side of Business

Publisher: © Key Associates, LLC, 2002 ISSN # 1545-8873

“The main job of managers in the knowledge-creating company is to orient chaos toward purposeful knowledge creation.” — Ikujiro Nonaka

“People are born with an innate love of learning.” — W. Edwards Deming

“Learning is immunity to decay.” — John Gardner

“A mind stretched by a new idea never returns to its original dimension.” — Abe Lincoln


  • What’s Hot in Leadership
  • Maintaining Yourself as a Leader
  • Frequently Asked Questions from Leaders
  • Educational Opportunities
  • Useful Websites & Newsletters
  • Articles/Publications

What’s Hot in Leadership

  • Stacking learning activities on top of other functions. Infuse a morsel or snippet of knowledge in every gathering. Have conversations while exercising. Listen to books on tape while driving.
  • Teaching as well as learning. Jack Welch, the CEO of GE, teaches a 3½ hour leadership course 5 times a year.
  • Free inquiry groups where there are no experts. Select a written piece to read and study the piece as a group.

Maintaining Yourself as a Leader

Have you stalled out on your own learning?

  • Start reading. Seek sources outside your field.
  • Start drawing. Open up both sides of your brain.
  • Start talking. Dialogue is a wonderful way to learn.
  • Keep a journal (start talking to yourself).
  • Commit to a personal improvement plan (PIP).

Frequently Asked Questions

“How can I make sure that everyone is learning in my organization?”
Create a Personal Learning Plan that is linked to performance review. After an assessment of strengths and weaknesses, commit to learning objectives, strategies and timeline. This must be self-directed learning using a multitude of resources – dialogue, field visits, job rotations, special assignments, mentoring, as well as more conventional sources like books and conferences. Once a year, I like to bring in a motivational speaker for our company-wide annual meeting.
“Is there a good source for these speakers?”
There are several, including Terrific Speakers and NSA Speaker. But my concern is that many leaders consider this as their educational program for the year. I see this more and more as education dollars get tighter – a drive-through version with ideas spray-painted on the employees. Without follow-up, it does not change behavior. People learn from experience. How can you give them unforgettable experience?
“How important is it to continually bring in experts from outside the organization?”
Nothing challenges the current order of things better than a new idea or point of view. To stimulate creativity, we often invite the views of a child, a person from another business, or literature outside the field. Having said that, there are experts within your organization on a multitude of topics – untapped. Incorporate the model of Free Inquiry Groups – groups of individuals who dialogue to learn from an author and/or from each other, with no experts in the room. Or make teaching an integral part of personal learning.


Yahoo! Education enables instructors to create free course web sites to connect with students and create virtual extensions of existing classes.

Learn about Knowledge Maps from Applied Learning Labs: Applied Learning Labs Knowledge Maps.

An interesting personal growth link, with ideas like how to optimize web browsing, boost creativity, learn faster, can be found at Braindance.

Teach your organization how to teach: Facilitating the Learning Journey taught by Key Associates. Contact us for more information.

Useful Websites & Newsletters

Knowledge Management, Organizational Learning, and Learning Organizations, a comprehensive site on knowledge management and learning organizations.

Learning Organizations: description of the learning organization and online articles.

Groupware, a virtual library of links.


  • Argyris, Chris & Shon, Donald A. Organizational Learning: A Theory of Action Perspective. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1978.
  • Beckhard, Richard & Pritchard, Wendy. Changing the Essence. (Chapter 2). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1992.
  • Chawla, Sarita & Renesch, John (Eds.) Learning Organizations: Developing Cultures for Tomorrow’s Workplace. Productivity Press, 1995.
  • Dibella, Anthony J. Learning Practices: Assessment and Action for Organizational Improvement. Prentice Hall, 2000.
  • Garvin, David A. Building a Learning Organization.Harvard Business Review, July-August, 1993, 78-91.
  • Knowles, Malcolm. The Modern Practice of Adult Education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1980.
  • Kolb, David A. Experiential Learning. Englewood Cliffs, JN: Prentice-Hall, 1984.
  • Mager, Robert. Preparing Instructional Objectives (2nd ed.). Belmont, CA: David S. Lake, 1984.
  • Nonaka, Ikujiro. The knowledge-creating company. Harvard Business Review. November-December, 1991.
  • Senge, Peter M. The leader’s new work: Building learning organizations. Sloan Management Review, Fall, 1990. 7-23.
  • Senge, Peter M. The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. Currency/Doubleday, 1994.
  • Senge, Peter M & Kleiner, Art (Eds.) et al. The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies and Tools for Building a Learning Organization.Currency/Doubleday, 1994.
  • Senge, Peter M. et.al. The Dance of Change: The Challenges to Sustaining Momentum in Learning Organizations. New York: Doubleday, 1999.
  • Sholtes, Peter R. The Leader’s Handbook: A Guide to Inspiring Your People and Managing the Daily Workflow. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1998.
  • Watkins, Karen E. & Marsick, Victoria J. Sculpting the Learning Organization. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1993.
  • Wick, Calhoun W. & Leaon, Lu S. The Learning Edge: How Smart Mangers and Smart Companies Stay Ahead. NY: McGraw-Hill, 1994.


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