Author: Amy C. Edmondson
This is a well researched book, of the same caliber as Dorothy Leonard's books (Edmondson and Leonard are both at the Harvard Business School), introducing useful concepts to understand learning at the team level. I often talk about three different levels for analysis: individual learning, team learning and organizational learning. Since most work in organizations happens in the context of teams or group work, team learning is critical to the overall success of the organization. It's the focus of this book.
If I were to divide all the books reviewed to far into two categories, one for knowledge management and one for organizational learning, this book falls neatly into the second category.
"To keep up with developments in their field, people must become lifelong learners, and success will belong to those who can master new skills and envision novel possibilities Employees must absorb, and sometimes create, new knowledge while executing. Because this process typically happens among individuals working together, collective learning -- that is, learning in and by smaller groups -- is regarded as the primary vehicle for organizational learning. Consequently, to excel in a complex and uncertain business environment, people need to both work and learn together" (p. 1).I know I've read this book cover to cover and it's worth revisiting regularly. I was particularly interested in the concept of psychological safety as it relates to organizational cultures. As a facilitator of group reflection activities, I've seen first hand how important it is to try to create that safe environment where team members feel comfortable enough to express their concerns and talk openly, at least within the team.
In addition, NASA is used as one of the examples in the book, an example I have become very familiar with over the past 9 years (although it's always interesting to compare the internal understanding of events with the external recounting, whether from an academic or media perspective).
Dr. Edmondson followed up this volume with Teaming to Innovate.
- Extract a couple of quotes around psychological safety to integrate in a presentation/training module on organizational culture for learning.
- Integrate the quote above in a presentation/module on the linkages between individual, team and organizational learning.