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The Fast Learning Company

How is it that a company, having no organic means of memory, can learn? And if it can indeed learn, how can it do so faster and better?

For the first anniversary Fast Company Now Blog Jam I thought this may be an appropriate issue to explore – as fast learning is critical to success as a fast company. We hear a fair amount about the need for learning organizations, but typically have little time to think about what this really means. I first encountered the topic when reading Argyris’s and Schon’s work Organizational Learning back in graduate school in the early 1980s. (The book is still available in a second edition.) The core concept revolves around the fact that a company’s “memory” in imbedded in its policies, procedures and system, and the “mental maps” of people who work in the organization. To the extent these change with events, the organization learns.

My co-author Alan Robinson and I wrote Ideas Are Free to help managers improve the way their companies learn by incorporating the ideas of all of their people quickly and effectively. The questions I have are:

How can we help our organizations learn faster and better?
How can we keep them from learning the “wrong” lessons?

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