Tuesday, April 25, 2017

What is it that we are not learning?

An interesting question was asked of me recently.  What is it that we are not learning?

I was giving a presentation about my work over the past 9 years helping projects document their insights and lessons from experience and facilitating knowledge flows across projects and across the functional areas of the organization (project managers, scientists, engineers).  One of the questions I was trying to answer was "Are we a learning organization?  Are we learning?"

My answer was "Yes, but perhaps we're not learning fast enough.  We're not adapting fast enough to keep up with rapid changes."  I was trying to emphasize the dynamic nature of knowledge and the fact that knowledge flows and the learning process itself are becoming more important than ever, whereas static knowledge assets are becoming obsolete more rapidly.

A member of the audience asked, "What is it that we are not learning?"

I can identify two situations where we are not learning:

  • First, if we define learning as changing a behavior or a process as a result of a lesson and the lessons is really only LEARNED when some action is taken, Identifying the correct action is not always simple. Getting agreement on that action is not always simple.  Getting the right people to take action is not always simple. In short, the assumption that once a lessons is identified it can easily be translated into action is unrealistic in many cases.  

  • Second, there are many unknown unknowns we are not paying attention to.  What is it that we are not seeing?  These things are not even on our radar.  One way to try to discover/uncover these is to involve experts in other fields who will see what we are doing through a completely different set of lenses, using a different frame of reference.

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