Organizational Learning

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Events are linked to actions. Actions are linked to results or effects. Effects of actions are compared with intentions or goals. If there is a discrepancy then the action is modified to move closer to the expected result, if we bother to observe the results for long enough and wide enough and clearly enough to link the effects to the actions of ourselves, others and environmental causes. Models including theory and data are Abstractions of the world.

Multiple actors

Addition of actors with models in their heads is recursive so there is a tradeoff between completeness and consistency

When surprises occur and are recognized, we pause to reflect and to find a sufficient explanation. A pattern of surprises, if clearly observed should lead us to doubt our sensemaking and search for different explanations which may change our habits of thinking. Once we attain a deeper level of understanding we may change our goals or intentions, our beliefs or other assumptions. This may lead to changing our actions, by improving our predictions (expectations) or answering what will happen if we do this rather than that questions, controlling or coordinating our actions with others (domination or cooperation), controlling our own actions and the actions of others, or designing institutions to produce intended effects or to reduce or mitigate unintended effects or changing our values or goals


What we are ultimately dealing with is a fear of change. I would like to suggest that this process was well described by the Swiss pedagogue Piagét who described what he called the "cognitive conflict". According to Piagét, when confronted with something new, we will try to process the information in 4 ways:

  • the first is "assimilation"; we will use this approach if the data our brains must process closely resembles that contained in a "mental structures (schema)" that we already possess.
  • The second thing we may try to do is to "incorporate" the data into an existing mental structure (to add it to the structure);
  • the third if the other two don't work will be to "accommodate" it (transform the data in such a way as to force it to fit by eliminating anything that we don't want or find inconvenient).
  • Finally the fourth will be to "reject" outright the data (and to rationalize doing so).

In the event that we cannot reject the data (in cases where we have no choice in the matter) we will attempt to create a completely new mental structure and allow it to coexist with others we already have. The problem here is that during the time that I am attempting to create the new schema I must function in a state of mental disequilibrium, something that I have not been educated to do (when one has been lucky enough to have been exposed to a constructivist learning process, at an early age the stage of mental disequilibrium will pose no problem. Jonathan Eden-Drummond

Fig. 1 - Organizational Learning WIP [Source]
Questions & Comments to Geoff McDonnell
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