5 Key Traits Of Learning Organizations

5 Key Traits Of Learning Organizations
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Summary: Learning organizations encourage ingenuity, independent thinking, and teamwork building. But how do you foster a sense of community in your corporate eLearning program? In this article, I'll share 5 key traits of learning organizations.

5 Key Traits ALL Learning Organizations Share

Learning organizations give employees the power to solve problems autonomously, as well as to benefit from the experience of their peers. They have the opportunity to share their ideas and insights without fear of being judged, and to expand their knowledge, and work together to achieve common goals. The organization is the primary benefactor of this creative and free-thinking approach. Here are 5 ways to identify learning organizations, inspired by Peter Senge's research [1].

1. Collaborative Learning Culture (Systems Thinking)

A successful learning organization is supported by a collaborative learning culture. Every individual is honored, but they also play a vital role in the overall framework. According to Senge's system thinking principle, organizations are made up of smaller units, much like the pieces of a puzzle. Corporate learners must understand the system as a whole, as well as each individual component that's involved. For example, they must comprehend how compliance and company policy foster a more efficient workplace, and ensure employee safety. Collaborative learning cultures also thrive on differing viewpoints. Corporate learners should respect and honor the ideas of their peers. Every voice must carry weight, and there is always room for innovation.

2. "Lifelong Learning" Mindset (Personal Mastery)

On an individual level, learning organizations require a forward-thinking mindset. According to Senge, this involves personal mastery. Corporate learners must develop a lifelong learning perspective, wherein they value and understand the importance of continual growth. The focus is on practical skills and knowledge they can apply in real-world environments. For example, soft skills that allow employees to improve customer service tasks. Individuals must also display commitment and dedication to personal goals, as well as company-wide learning objectives. 

3. Room For Innovation (Mental Models)

This trait of learning organizations is actually two-fold. First, corporate learners must be able to evaluate and assess their current cognitions through self-reflection. This allows them to challenge limiting beliefs that are standing in the way of progress. Every individual is then able to see how they fit into the big picture, and how they can serve the "greater good". Secondly, corporate learners must be encouraged to test out new theories and approaches. Risk is all part of the equation, as it allows people to learn from their mistakes and continually improve. According to Senge, mental models should be acknowledged and challenged in order to move beyond unfavorable behaviors and assumptions.

4. Forward-Thinking Leadership (Shared Vision)

The fourth way to identify a learning organization is to look for forward-thinking leaders. The enthusiasm and dedication starts from the top. Managers, supervisors, and trainers must be committed to the process and have a "shared vision". Leaders must challenge assumptions, encourage self-reflection, and set an example for their team members. They should let corporate learners make mistakes that build real-world experience. Then, they should discuss alternative approaches so that they don't repeat the same mistakes in the future. Here are just a few ways that organizations can promote forward-thinking leadership:

  • Host Live Webinars
    Webinars give leaders the opportunity to interact with their team on a more personal basis. Likewise, the entire group gets the chance to ask questions and address their concerns. Webinars are a great way to motivate corporate learners and raise awareness of the organization's core objectives. Record the live webinar for those who can't attend, and provide links to supplemental online training materials.
  • Start Corporate eLearning Blogs And Online Discussions
    Corporate eLearning blogs and online discussions open up the lines of communication. Leaders can post important questions, ideas, and updates, while corporate learners have the power to pose questions and stay in the loop. Provide leaders with an outline or weekly topic schedule. Then invite them to make their own contribution to the corporate eLearning blog, or online discussion. This is the place where their team can gather online and share their opinions in a more private way.
  • Stay Active On Social Media. Facebook, Twitter, And Other Social Media Platforms
    Encourage leaders to start a closed group where corporate learners can post helpful links and comments. They can even use social networking sites to add more interactivity to their webinars. For example, creating a hashtag for their next online training event. Just make sure that leaders set some ground rules to ensure that all opinions are respected and everyone's voice is heard.
  • Schedule Regular Team Meetings
    Everyone has to be on the same page in order to make a meaningful change. As such, you should host regular meetings with your leadership team. Encourage them to share ideas and feedback so that you can continually improve your approach. These meetings equip leaders with the tools and resources they need to serve as role models. Video conferencing platforms and Project Management tools are also great additions to your team meetings, as they streamline the online collaboration process and make the online training experience more engaging and effective.

5. Knowledge Sharing (Team Learning)

Collaboration is key in learning organizations. Every member of the group must be aware of the learning objectives and desired outcomes, and then work as a collective problem-solving team to achieve their goals. In most cases, this calls for a knowledge-sharing infrastructure. For example, an online training repository where corporate learners can share links and learner-generated online training content with their peers. Everyone benefits from the expertise and skill sets of the group. Likewise, they are able to deepen their own comprehension by sharing information with peers, as it involves active recall and reinforcement.

Effective learning organizations share these 5 common traits. They foster lifelong learning and ongoing collaboration, which fuels the success of the entire group. Everyone has the chance to make mistakes and learn from them, which leads to new groundbreaking ideas and profit-building opportunities. As such, learning organizations have the power to improve online training ROI and employee satisfaction.

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[1] Senge, Peter. 1990. The Fifth Discipline: Τhe Art and Practice of the Learning Organization. New York: Doubleday