Learning organisation or learn in the organisation?

Learning organisation or learn in the organisation?

Learning & Development

Debashish Das

Debashish Das

7 Jun 2020, 19:23 — 6 min read

What keeps the edge in the business? Of the many things which we may list one of the most pertinent yet very simple is continuous learning. Every organisation is radically different and evolves over a period of time differently than what it was when it started many decades back. Organisations evolve, mature, grow and course correct by learning. What makes an organisation different, innovative, unique than the other? That is where a perspective on Learning organisation versus Learn in the organisation presents itself.

Learning organisation

Learn in the organisation as per me are the organisations who experience failures and learn. Learning organisations are organisational and business entities which proactively plan and nurture the learning practices in the system to make it embedded in the institution.

A few traits of learning organisations are:

1. High on the learning curve: Learning organisations are always ahead of the learning curve. Such businesses proactively scan the business ecosystem and build skills and competencies required for the future to stay relevant and competitive in business. This gives them speed in go to market in a dynamic market environment.

2. Attrition does not affect business: Since the organisation has learning as a DNA skills are known to many not just to a few. Therefore business is always as usual even if people change.

3. Strong succession planning: Learning organisations create strong layer of talent in the system which supports expansion, inorganic and rapid growth. The values, culture, skills and attributes need no time to be imbibed.

4. High attraction and retention, engagement of talent: Learning organisations have higher attraction and retention of good talent. This helps the business as the longer tenurity with higher productivity.

5. Future ready: Organisations which learn and reinvent as a part of the process are always future ready, hence they set the trend in the sector and market and are always ready for the future.   

6. Adapt to VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity): Learning organisations have a very high adaptability factor to VUCA scenario. Since the organisation has learning embedded any disruption or change takes least time to be adapted and adopted.

7. Supply of talent impacting employee branding: Learning organisations create alma mater who take industry leadership roles thereby attracting great talent. It strengthens the ecosystem by providing and supplying great talent and constantly attracting new talent.

Also read: Career value curves


Learn in the organisation

Learn in the organisation is a phenomena where the hit and trial culture is more prevalent than a structured way of learning. Practices, legacies drive learning than scientifically assessed needs of the organisation. Learn in organisation is a place for many to ‘try out’ the experiments at the cost of the organisation. A few pointers for organisations to avoid not gravitate towards - Learn in the organisation are:

1. Experiment of failed aspirations: Learn in the organisation can fall in the trap of trying out something which has failed everywhere. Nothing wrong in optimism and passion but does the organisation need it or is it a leaders personal ego cross for the organisation to bear. In the process lot of new learning may happen to accommodate the new experiment so that all can “learn in the organisation”. if it fails again? Well, we learnt in the organisation...

2. Fresher heavy organisation: If everyone is discovering the organisation may become a laboratory of trials and of course errors. Youth and fresh blood is much needed, but even they need to be nurtured by a plan to learn. Balance of fresh blood to tenurity will help organisations to stay out of the “learn in the organisation” syndrome.

3. Lack of domain understanding: Lack of domain experts may create the learn in the organisation syndrome. I know of an organisation where the functional heads are tenured but not updated on domain and industry changes, the past successes are noteworthy but quite irrelevant today. The organisation learns every day by getting customer escalations, firefighting, lost customers just because everyone is trying to get the model right when competitors are busy expanding the business.

4. Legacy eats learning for breakfast: High legacy systems corrode and erode learning. it is a very important check for organisations to ensure they are not legacy laden. “This is how we have done it, let us try again”, “How can this proven method be wrong” are the early warning signs of learning in the organisation.

5. Any method is a good method: With so much of knowledge available these days, mostly free on the web. New concepts learnt may be very appealing for organisations to try out ..Try Out !!!? Hey….. hold on it needs to be planned out not tried out. Any novelty may be good to know but is it needed has to be evaluated to prevent becoming a learn in the organisation system.

The purpose of sharing this article to my dear readers is to make them aware to use discern in learning and development. It is absolutely necessary to learn and develop and become a learning organisation with structured methods and approaches of learning and development. At the same time enthusiastic organisations may choose to review whether they are becoming a learning organisation or learn in the organisation.


Also read: New paradigm for people and business


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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views, official policy or position of GlobalLinker.


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Debashish Das

Leadership and Business Growth Coach with over 20 years of experience in coaching and consulting. Specialist in HR, Strategy, Business Growth for SME and Corporates. As a coach...