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Issue Judging about 'good' or 'bad' organisational learning
Debate [CC:] One thing I find really intriguing is how the judgement is made about what learning is good and what learning is bad within an organisation. It would seem to me that maybe one of the differences is an issue of conflict in an organisation. If I look back personally at my moments of really useful learning that was where you had to actually operate in a structure that was very unpleasant. The learning outcomes dealing with an organisation, dealing with your boss, dealing with situations that weren't particularly comfortable produced really very valuable learning. The whole notion of judging about what learning that takes place is good and what learning is bad may vary enormously in terms of context. In fact, a bad situation, I mean non-supportive situation, is something that can produce really powerful and useful learning outcomes which I suspect would not be seen to be good learning outcomes in some of the discourses about LOs. So how does a LO judge what is good learning for the individuals within that organisation?

[BC:] Taking up the last remark I think what Mike (Kelleher) and Barry (Nyhan) presented is exactly the point that inside this LO concept they make it legitimate to view individual perspectives or horizons for learning. That was not a part of the concept originally, that's a new thing, and that's why now we have in my opinion a fruitful way of discussing the issue.
    If you are at work as an individual you have your own life perspectives on this. Somebody may be there for earning money, others for other purposes or combining things. If you accept that there are different individual horizons or perspectives in an organisation, then this organisation if it is a LO has to give space for learning in different ways, for different perspectives, not only for the organisational purpose which the first generation of LOs accepted. 

[LM:] But this brings us back to who makes the judgement what is useful learning, that brings us back to that power within the organisation. For example, I have got a female head of personnel; if I demonstrate the superb learning curve where I am actually coming out with brilliant ideas I am getting too big for her boots. There is an enormous restraint, particularly in Britain. I am sure there is a peer pressure not to get on, so that the tension between the individual learning and the organisational development is constant and very often governed by class and gender and race.

[MKe:] Which is why we are trying to link to the individuals' definition of what that space is, what their learning is, what their outcomes are. There is the organisation's responsibility to create the capacity to allow for those individuals to find their learning space, so there is some form of intervention even if they might just create that space. Whether it's a good space or a bad space is another issue to consider. 

[NB:] Just a comment on how to measure learning, in the context of the studies we are doing on a company (name not quoted SM). We have interviewed about 40 people now about their involvement in the organisational learning initiative. The thing that struck me about the interviews is that although companies have got this commitment to organisational learning, employees never use the term learning when they describe what they are involved in. It's not because they don't have the language, they constantly talk about culture change, and these are quite sophisticated social terms, but the word learning never crops up. So puzzling over this, if you look at the way in which they actually measure organisational learning, they don't measure it in the way educationalists measure it, which tends to measure the process such as reasoning skills or stuff like that. The way in which they measure organisational learning is in terms of key performance indicators. These KPIs obviously are productivity, the accident rate. Some of the KPIs are humanistic, so they refer to individual learning, but again in terms of a company's performance measure. So we have the percentage of employees who got a certificate in the last year and things like that. It's flagged up like that: 85% of our work force have got clearance certificates to work in such a dangerous area. That's the way in which they measure it, it's all very much in terms of outcome, not of the process. That's one of the ways in which the business space discussion about organisational learning doesn't mesh with what the educationalists in further education or general education talk about, because they are concerned about the process, not the end product so much. So there are two different discourses within here. 

Event CEDRA: Stirling July 02
Descriptors D-LO            
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Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO