Organizational Learning

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Learning for a Living

We need to learn at work, but it’s costly and time consuming, and we worry we might be found lacking. What if we can’t pick up the skills we need? Further, most organizations are not as hospitable to learning as their rhetoric suggests. Part of the problem is that we seldom acknowledge that it doesn’t just happen at work — it is work. Employers can better support learning, and individuals can do it more effectively, by understanding that there are two types of learning and that each needs its own space.

The Downstream Damage of the Leadership Skills Gap

  • Read Time: 4 min 

Despite companies’ efforts to invest in leadership development, studies show that managerial skills gaps are increasingly common. The downstream effects of these gaps negatively affect not only businesses but extend to the global economy as well. To address this critical problem, leaders must place increased focus on their own development as managers in order to facilitate an increase in productivity across the board.

The New Role for Managers in Workplace Learning

  • Read Time: 4 min 

A recent survey found that managers do not as a rule encourage or enable employee learning. In the evolving skill-centered economy, that needs to change — but many companies simply have no process in place to support re-skilling and upskilling. Simply imposing an education plan for employees isn’t enough. Managers also need to support, encourage, offer feedback, and lead by example if employees are to gain needed skills that will benefit the company long term.

Why Hypotheses Beat Goals

  • Read Time: 6 min 

Companies that aggressively pursue learning must accept the possibility of failure. But simply setting goals and being nonchalant if they fail is inadequate. Instead, companies should focus organizational energy on hypothesis generation and testing. Hypotheses force individuals to articulate in advance why they believe a given course of action will succeed. A failure then exposes an incorrect hypothesis — which can more reliably convert into organizational learning.

It Pays to Have a Digitally Savvy Board

Companies whose boards of directors have digital savvy outperform companies whose boards lack it: Among companies with over $1 billion of revenues, 24% had digitally savvy boards, and those businesses significantly outperformed others on key metrics such as revenue growth, ROA, and market cap growth. Companies can improve their boards by knowing what characteristics to look for in existing and new board members, managing board agendas differently, and cultivating new learning opportunities.

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Preparing for the Coming Skill Shifts

  • Read Time: 3 min 

CEOs worry about ensuring that their companies have the right skills mix to thrive in the age of AI and automation, and they’re smart to be thinking about talent at a strategic level. But the external labor market can do only so much to address the anticipated shifts in demand. So companies should double down on retraining the people they have, with an emphasis on lifelong learning and adaptability.

Five Management Strategies for Getting the Most From AI

A global survey by the McKinsey Global Institute finds that AI is delivering real value to companies that use it across operations. C-level executives report that when they adopt AI at scale — meaning they deploy AI across technology groups, use AI in the most core parts of their value chains, and have the full support of their executive leadership — they are finding not just cost-cutting opportunities, but new potential for business growth, too.

Accelerate Access to Data and Analytics With AI

Detailed and data-rich insights won’t help your company if your employees don’t know where to find them — but that’s a problem AI can solve. Machine learning can enable faster organizational learning by helping each employee quickly understand what others in the organization understand — forming a knowledge distribution network.

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How to Manage Alliances Strategically

Companies that lack the resources and knowledge to undertake key strategic growth initiatives often seek partners who can fill in the gaps. The skills that make such alliances work, however, aren’t well understood; executives often make flawed assumptions that prevent the partnership from achieving its goals. An integrative, holistic framework for alliance management helps executives avoid these pitfalls and create value via strategic alliances.

Learning from innovation

  • Read Time: 1 min 

New research offers insights into the factors that affect how much an organization learns from its innovation activities.

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The Education of Practicing Managers

The authors contend that contemporary management education does a disservice by standardizing content, focusing on business functions (rather than on managing practices) and training specialists (rather than general managers). Working with several major international universities, the authors have developed seven tenets to improve MBA programs by grounding them in practical experience, shared insight and thoughtful reflection.

Surfing the Edge of Chaos

Every decade or two, a big idea in management thinking takes hold and becomes widely accepted. The next big idea must enable businesses to improve the hit rate of strategic initiatives and attain the level of renewal necessary for successful execution. Scientific research on complex adaptive systems has identified principles that apply to living things, from amoebae to organizations. Four principles relevant to strategic work at Royal Dutch/Shell are outlined.

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