(206) 686-4400 ext. 13

(206) 686-4400 ext. 13

Henley Leadership Group Blog

How to Cultivate a Learning Organization


Learning organizations are organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning to see the whole together.  -Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline

The idea of the Learning Organization challenges organizations to shift to a more interconnected way of thinking. This shift creates an experience of community within the system, resulting in employees who are deeply committed and will work harder to produce desired results. 

 So what can you, as a leader, do to build or expand a learning organization? Here are a few ideas to get started.

 Provide continuous learning opportunities.
Most learning occurs on the job, in real and current situations. Offer stretch projects, coaching, team development and interim roles.

Build awareness of self, team and the organization.
Engage in training that expands thinking, challenges views, and explores new ways of working. Be clear with intentions and aware of your impact.

 Support your team in setting true stretch goals.

Stretch goals require learning and stepping into the unknown. Cultivate an environment where taking on stretch goals, even if one falls short of producing the desired result, is rewarded and recognized.

 Connect individual and organizational performance.

Recognize that the individual's performance is directly related to the whole.  Make the connection for your direct report: identify ways their performance is helping or hindering organizational effectiveness.

 Embrace creative tension.

At the start of anything new, unknown, or ambiguous there is tension.  This tension is a sign of someting new being created, a new result about to be produced. Grow the muscle needed to hold the tension.

Foster inquiry and reflection time.
Learning requires time to pause, reflect and inquire. After each project or stretch goal, set aside time to find the gold in the learning.