The Two Small Wicked Challenges of Organisations #BigLearning

If we focus on our organisations as places to work and learn together, two small but wicked challenges come to the fore. The design of a Big Learning system needs to help an organisation manage these challenges at scale.

Two Small Challenges

Knowing what we know: Lew Platt of HP originally coined ‘if only HP knew, what HP knows’ but the frustrations of shared knowledge have been around since the beginnings of management. We can’t achieve knowledge sharing (& shouldn’t try). However finding a more effective way is an ongoing process of evolution in any group.

Knowing what works: Since FW Taylor management has known its role is focused on isolating what works and what can be improved, but clearly this has been a challenge for as long as people gathered together in challenges. One need only look at the many thousand year history of military thinking so see an example of the evolution of approaches to effectiveness. Separating out what performs well and how to be more effective is an everyday challenge. This encompasses both what works in internal relationships and what works externally for customers, community and other partners.

The problems worth working on in life often have the characteristic that they are easy to describe but wickedly complex to solve. There are no simple transactional or universal solutions to these issues. They sum up the quest of the entire history of management and human organisation.

Many Solutions. An Evolving State

The wickedness of these two small problems is why we require a systemic response. Individual approaches can contribute to the sharing of knowledge or learning what works or both. However effectiveness and scale will require an interplay of many elements of a system and continued learning and enablement of evolution of that system. Organisations that do not focus on creating a Big Learning system that encourages its people to learn, to share and enables them to continuously improve their practices will be left behind.

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