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3 steps to a learning organization

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What is the key to a company's success? If you believe John Welch, who was CEO of General Electric between 1981 and 2001, “the ability of an organization to learn and implement what it has learned is the ultimate competitive advantage.” This competitive advantage of a learning organization at General Electric is expressed in one Increase in market value by $268 billion from (Craven, 2004).

It is no longer a secret that companies have to establish the demand for continuous improvement in their culture in order to remain competitive. Success stories like those from Google or General Electric show us that the employee-driven process doesn't just work in theory. So far so good. The question of how does this not clarify & #8211; that is why you will find three steps here that must be fulfilled so that your company becomes a learning organization.

Role of the learning environment

An effective learning environment is characterized by a pronounced error culture, or as it is called on Google: “Post mortem culture". What's this? In short, it is a learning from mistakes. Errors must be the focus of constructive discussions in order to offer starting points for changes. But what must the corporate climate be like so that team members like to admit mistakes and discuss them with others?

In science, one would say there must be an atmosphere of psychological security (Edmondson, 1999; more information too here). In a psychologically safe environment, you are ready to take risks and make mistakes because you are not afraid of being punished. A Google study shows that the effectiveness of teams depends very much on the perceived psychological security. In order to establish such a climate, a room must be offered in which the mistakes can be discussed. If you are interested in how Echometer helps to create this atmosphere in the team, have a look here past. So we come to the second point: concrete learning processes must be initiated.

Initiation of targeted learning processes

The integration of continuous learning processes in the corporate culture is facilitated if learning is part of everyday business routine (Garvin, Edmonson & Gino, 2008). This routine can take the form of, for example, in a learning organization "retrospectives" occur. After each project is completed, you are asked what went well and what went wrong. Another important question is how to learn from the mistakes that have been made in order to work more effectively in the future. The space for discussing mistakes has now been created. You have never worked with retros? Please try it out our tool once out.

At best, the insights from the retrospectives not only remain within the team, but are shared by the team members with other employees of the company (Serrat, 2017). Again, the feeling of psychological security is crucial. It's one thing to experience this security at the team level, but to make employees feel comfortable talking about mistakes at the company level, we shouldn't forget the role model function of managers.

Learning leadership as a prerequisite for a learning organization

Managers who initiate open discussions signal that learning in the company is desirable. When they encourage their employees to ask questions such as "Why did you choose to do this?" Or "What alternatives did you think about?" Employees are more willing to contribute their opinions and learn from the behavior of others (Garvin, Edmonson & Gino, 2008).

The time and attention invested by the manager also motivates the employees to become part of the learning culture, as this enables the manager to show how much they care about the topic (Popper & Lipshitz, 2000).


A learning organization continuously adapts to internal and external changes. In order for these changes to be recognized and communicated, the right climate must first be created. The feeling of psychological security enables employees to speak openly about their mistakes so that the whole team can learn from them. If the learning continues to be supported by the example of the managers and established feedback routines, an “ultimate competitive advantage” can actually develop.


Craven, A. (2004). Embracing learning at GE: Lessons from the world's most successful conglomerate. Development and Learning in Organizations: An International Journal,18(2), 22-24.

Edmondson, A. (1999). Psychological Safety and Learning Behavior in Work Teams. Administrative Science Quarterly, 44(2), 350-383.

Garvin, DA, Edmondson, AC & Gino, F. (2008). Is yours a learning organization? Harvard Business Review, 89, 1-11.

Popper, M. & Lipshitz, R. (2000). Installing mechanisms and instilling values: the role of leaders in organizational learning. The Learning Organization7(3), 135-145.

Serrat, O. (2017). Building a learning organization. In Knowledge Solutions (pp. 57-67). Singapore: knight.

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