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The Power of OPT(other people’s thinking)

 “Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”     — Steve Jobs


On the first day of class, Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple.  A tweet entitled Why Steve Jobs’ resignation is a (relative) non-event as Apple becomes a living company” by Ross Dawson caught my attention that evening, and I clicked on the link.  In his blog, Dawson asserts that (Jobs) “has been able to build a company that is far, far more than an execution arm for his vision. He has imbued his vision and quest for excellence in those around him and through the organization,” and asked, “Is Apple now a ‘living company’ that truly transcends its founder and any individual in it?”

This was an interesting question considering the class discussion on organizational learning as a process, as the sum of the shared learning of individuals that moves the organization in a specific direction.  Is organizational learning, then, an essential ingredient in becoming a ‘living company’ such as Apple?  If so, what values, beliefs and assumptions must a founder embed in an organization to not fear the ‘letting go’?  And, I wonder, how exactly is knowledge and learning effectively shared in ever-changing 21st century organizations?

Dawson had another blog post that caught my eye, “The role of information social networks in building organizational creativity and innovationin which he talks about the power of social networking in building value in a company.  He references an IBM Institute for Business Value report on the use of ‘social network analysis,’ data gathering with what occurred to me as an interesting perspective – relationship networks and the collective visualization of data.  What a potentially amazing tool to peer into the role of organizational learning in a ‘living’ company.

A second tweet that evening let me to a series of articles entitled “Social media and its impact on workplace learning OR how the Smart Worker works and learns.”  Serendipitous in light of the timing of our first class discussion?   The author states, “…social media is now fundamentally changing the way many people – those I call Smart Workers – are now working and learning – and this is opening up a new era of workplace learning.”  8 Key Features of how the Smart Worker works and learns are highlighted, one of which — learns best with and from others— seemed to be consistent with class discussion.  There are many great points in the August 16 blog on this topic, including this question: 

“What does all this have to do with workplace learning?  It implies we should be thinking much much more about how we can support these personal human interactions in learning – both in one-to-one and group based approaches.”

I look forward to our discussions about supporting personal human interactions in the process of organizational learning and how these contribute to the culture of ‘living’ companies.  To begin with, a few observations from this week’s reading from Dixon’s The Organizational Learning Cycle:

  • “Learning is not something that requires time out from being engaged in productive activity; learning is the heart of productive activity – the new form of labor.” (intro p. 5) – fabulous statement, but who really believes this?
  • “In order to alter tacit meaning structures, it is first necessary to become aware of them – a major problem, since it is difficult to become aware of that which you are unaware.” (p. 35) I see this as the major benefit of the reflector/mirror teams, but is this feedback accepted in the work environment?
  • “Collective learning requires not just the new experiences, it also requires the processing space in which those members can connect the ideas they have with the ideas of others – the hallways.”  (p. 59)  I wonder if ‘hallways’ are a 1990’s concept?  What technology tools support ‘hallways’ today?  In the future?

2 Responses to “The Power of OPT(other people’s thinking)”

  1. Perhaps “hallways” in 2011 are virtual connections between learners or communities of learners — cyberspace “trails” that we travel often and frequently, and, if we make good use of them, can inform both individual and collective learning. It seems to me that the social nature of learning in this century is becoming a more accepted concept, even if it is a challenging one to grasp. Thanks for this insightful post about what you found interesting in the readings! tjc

  2. Joanne – you have yet another slick post. I could “learn” some things from your blogs. Very nice! To comment on Apple and Steve Jobs first: I have not read as much as you have on the topic of his resignation/retirement, but I hope 1) that he knew a long time ago this day would come due to his health concerns, and he had a planned learning transfer in place and 2) maybe the transition to the new CEO will be “seamless” as they call it. Perhaps the leadership of Jobs has completed it’s cycle. Presidents cannot serve for more than 8 years, maybe the best way to interject the shared perspectives, innovation, etc. is to move leaders around anyway. Obviously he is the brainchild of the Apple operation, but now that Apple’s business/development cycle is so established, could not someone else (or the entire organization) survive and thrive just fine?

    As far as the Dixon readings and your questions: I do believe learning is at the heart of productivity. Learning, though, I think comes from something inside (heart, courage, caring..) that the culture has to allow and support. You are right, does not happen much – uhh so sad. I sigh…

    As I mentioned in class Thursday – the biggest problem you have in organizational learning is when the individuals do not know what they do not know. Scary

    And thirdly, can technology lead the way on “hallways”? yes and no. We should certainly use technology to the fullest point possible. I have no problem with and use social media (I just found out one of my best friends from high school lives 3 miles from me..we just met yesterday after 2 years..I digress) Technology allows us to quickly gain access to information, events, data, people. We can use this to make decisions, help us create solutions, or connect with the experts we need. I also so “no” to technology because many organizations are trying to substitute the human interaction with the web. It will not happen and should not be attempted! Use the technology, then pick up the phone and have a face to face to discuss what you have learned. Let’s not forget the term “relationship”. -thanks for your thoughts Joanne

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