The 'Learning Organisation'

I shall not try to attribute the following quotation, although various famous people have been associated with variants on this theme: “Education is that which remains behind when all we have learned at school is forgotten.” The important point is this idea.


I have always had an interest in people and their development, including selection and leadership potential. The fascination is that there is such a variety of utterly different approaches that work (or don’t)! What is the equivalent for an organisation?

How can we create the ‘learning organisation’? How can it continue to improve no matter that leaders or staff come and go? The conventional approach is to rely on process. Many is the company whose shelves groan with procedures and, perhaps, even their dealings with their customers are scripted in a call centre. 


I think culture is more likely to be successful. The ‘way we do things around here’ can – with care and understanding – be fostered and passed on to newcomers. But encouraging and maintaining the right culture requires the right leaders, who can ensure ‘clarity of purpose’ and help everyone do their best to achieve it.

This is extremely relevant to asset management. The basis for success is to adopt the philosophy/paradigm over a significant period; to depend more on wisdom than knowledge. 

I agree that a management system facilitates the right activities, that procedures can be valuable. But in the end, would you choose an assistant that had the right attitude and was keen to learn or a good-for-nothing who knew all the answers?

I was in a pub a month ago, discussing people that had had a lasting effect on our lives and careers. My companions and I compared notes and limited ourselves to 6 people from our childhood to our (ahem!) mature years. In every case, they were people from whom we took values, behaviours or attitudes or who simply took the time to develop us; few had helped us simply from their factual knowledge. Try this yourselves – it’s interesting!

I suspect the value of a mature professional is their judgment, based on experience. They may need to refresh or update their detailed knowledge, but their understanding should have been hard-won and remain the basis of good decisions. 

The education in the quotation cannot come without the learning: but it is more important.

I am tempted to address a similar and challenging question: data – or information? And enter the fray regarding the consequences of the Internet of Things. But maybe I’ll leave that for a later article…