5 Traits of the Best Learning Organizations + How To Get Them

• 3 min read

Becoming a learning organization in the digital age.

Only about 10% companies are true learning organizations, in that they don’t just empower growth and development for employees, partners and customers, but they also embrace learning to gain organizational insight and adapt to change from a big-picture perspective. 

For the other 90% of organizations, well, the missed opportunities are huge. Enabling employees to share ideas and insights freely, in a centralized learning ecosystem establishes a formal way to expand informal knowledge, and then work together to solve common problems/goals.

The organization is ultimately the key benefactor to this free-thinking, experiential approach.

The 5 Traits True Learning Organizations Share + How To Get Them 

According to Peter Senge, a systems scientist and senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, learning organizations share five identical traits. Here’s a breakdown of these five traits and how to develop them to drive your journey to becoming a learning organization.

1. They Have a Collaborative Learning Culture (Systems Thinking) 

Successful learning organizations are supported by a collaborative learning culture, in which each person plays an important role in the overall framework.

How to make it happen

L&D leaders must understand the system as a whole, but also each component (or business unit) that’s involved. For example: recognizing how compliance and company policy nurture a more efficient workplace. Collaborative cultures thrive on differing viewpoints, encouraging learners to respect and discuss the ideas of their peers. This is where social learning tools can be implemented to foster and facilitate knowledge sharing.

2. They Have A “Lifelong Learning” Mindset (Personal Mastery) 

A lifelong learning mindset (also known as continuous learning) helps learners embrace, value and understand the importance of continual growth (i.e. constant improvements to practical skills and knowledge, and applying them in real-life environments). 

How to make it happen

A data-driven learning platform enables you to leverage learning analytics to deliver more definitive conclusions related to individual learning. This then plays a deeper role in guiding a learner’s decision-making process.

3. They Always Have Room For Innovation (Mental Models) 

Corporate learners must evaluate and assess existing ideas via self-reflection to challenge whatever beliefs are standing in the way of progress. Doing so gives learners a way to understand how they fit into the “bigger picture” and how they can serve the “greater good”.

How to make it happen

Learners must be encouraged to test new theories and approaches – Senge concludes that mental models should be acknowledged and challenged to go beyond unfavorable behaviors and assumptions.

4. They Have Forward-Thinking Leadership (Shared Vision) 

Empower forward-thinking leaders that are committed to the process, have a “shared vision,” challenge assumptions, encourage self-reflection, and set an example for team members.

How to make it happen

Mistakes that build real-world experience should be encouraged, and then discussed to avoid repeating them in the future. 

Leverage your learning platform as a way to centralize this information by curating content via webinar recordings, blog submissions, short interview videos, etc., is a way to revisit solutions if similar problems arise again. 

5. They Champion Knowledge Sharing (Team Learning) 

Every member of each team must be aware of the company’s learning objectives and desired outcomes, and work collectively to achieve goals.

How to make it happen

This function requires a centralized location in which user-generated learning content can be shared and consumed by various team members. Doing so enables each and every team member to benefit from the expertise of their closest peers and deepen their own comprehension as the function involves actively recalling information and then reinforcing it. 

Is Your Company A Learning Organization? Questions to Ask

  • Do your employees feel empowered to suggest new ideas or challenge authority figures?
  • Is diversity championed in your organization to provide differing perspectives?
  • What tools have you given your employees to learn and share knowledge? Are these tools effective?

As new generations of learners, who place an emphasis on opportunities to learn on the job, grow in numbers across global workforces, organizations must make learning a core cultural component to attract and retain quality talent.

These generational shifts and the growing need to place smarter technologies at the core of an organization’s operations, mean the future of the learning organization will be shaped by today’s decisions.Learn how evolving learning technologies, including Artificial Intelligence, can help align L&D with business goals. Download your copy of Close the Learning Loop.