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Key Principles for Designing a Learning Organization

What are the key principles for designing a learning organization? Why are these important?

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"1.0 Designing a Learning Environment

How then can we create a learning environment in which competency and capacity can be developed and not just knowledge and skills? The key is the creation of the organization that learns. This is because learning for the individual is not separate from the contexts of group or team, organization, and community. In other words, all learning occurs within a culture or environment. Leadership is inherently connected with learning.

Learning shows up as 'growth' in four dimensions in people: Physical, emotional, intellectual and creative/generative. One can become a great player or swimmer by focusing on physical learning. Emotional learning shows up in abilities to nurture in relationships and in EQ. Intellectual growth is more easily understood as that is the most common way we understand learning while creative or generative learning is at the root of inventiveness, and resulting innovations and intellectual capital. In a general sense, an organization that learns pays attention to creating environment that:

? supports physical well being (and development),
? provides emotional support (affects the sense of belonging and psychological health),
? challenges and stretches intellect and
? facilitates creation of new knowledge through products, processes and services.

The key to such learning is emotional development and hence the leader's attention has to be to find a way to open the hearts of people so that they co-create the organization that support the development in other dimensions. Let us look at the steps to creating such environment.

1.1 Creating a Foundation

The first step is what I call 'creating a foundation'. It involves creating boundary conditions and ground rules for designing and differentiating this organization from others. In other words, the purpose of the rules is to clarify the game that we are choosing to play. The ground rules shouldn't be limiting to people, their purpose is to create a consistent playing field with room to maneuver, where there is a common understanding for working together. In a mundane sense, restructuring a learning environment like developing operand conditioning a la Skinner. More people are involved in creating such rules, the better the foundation and more interested people are in playing the game.

Ground rules should not be broken. Not because of authority but because you chose to create them in the first place. If you do not follow the rules you set forth, nobody will follow them either. If you do not like the ground rules, you work with the system to change them. If such change is not in the best interest of the organization, you can choose to stay in the system and follow the ground rules or to get out of the organization and find another where a different set of ground rules are present. If, for example, your organization is a business where drugs are forbidden, if any drugs, are found on the premises or if the person is found to be on drugs, the responsible party will no longer be part of the system. There cannot be exceptions to ground rules at the foundation level. True leadership is about modeling the behavior, 'walking the talk' that you wish others to follow. By making the ground rules minimal and clear cut and by following them religiously, you create a safe space for other people to play with you and build with you. In that respect, the first step is all about leadership.

This is not an issue of morality, but more one of conditioning and habit formation. At the body level, the reptilian brain does not operate logically. It does not function by emotions either. It operates in black and white. It operates through fight or flight survival responses and there is no higher level intelligence at this level. It means that you cannot ignore something that you have helped to create. If you do, the survival of the system is threatened.

Once we all agree to work with the minimum required and to always follow the rules, we have a game to play. The role of the leaders is to continually monitor the playground and make sure that the game is getting played. Authority would not work here. Only once all parties have agreed with and committed to all the rules can the game go on to the next level.

An excellent example of creating a solid foundation in the corporate world is the Boeing 777 Program Reviews conducted ...

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The solution contains a very long, multi-page, step by step, response on designing learning environments.

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