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Issue Learning processes in organisations
Outline [RJS:] My main idea is that people are always learning. We needn't make people learn. What happens is that they are not learning the way we want them to learn or what we want them to learn, but it is impossible for people not to learn. Learning is a mental state which no one can escape from. Learning is happening everywhere and every time. This is a fundamental starting point when I work in companies. People may not realise how much they are learning and what their preferred ways of learning are: that is important to realise.
Some people say that if learning is taking place all the time then all societies are learning organisations. That is not the case. The learning organisation is an organisation which has a conscious policy to improve learning, not only for the organisation, also for the teams and the individuals in the organisation; and not only in one kind of learning but in all kinds of learning. This is a normative concept.
The combination of the different forms of learning is most important. My favourite example is from the Rover Company. They said to all their employees: you can have 100 Pound Sterling every year for learning. We have only two rules: you cannot use it for work-related learning; it can only be used for your own learning, what you find important for yourself. The second rule is that you have to discuss it  with your boss. It was a good initiative: you stimulate people to learn for their own sake and you send out several messages, for instance 'we find it important that you are an individual learner'. The effect was very good. All these people, for the first time, came to the learning centres, and they discussed learning with their bosses. And when there was a real need for learning of certain things for the organisation these people had a different kind of motivation.
It is important to focus on the positive side of learning that you are doing all day, and not 'you have to learn'. Also, the guided learning, the independent learning and the more implicit forms of learning have to have a certain balance. In my work in companies I try to make people aware of their implicit learning. The result is that they say: I didn't know that I learn so much, that my job gives me so many opportunities to learn I just didn't think about it'.
Debate [RV:] I would suggest that 'self-directed, reflective individual and collective learning' is specific for the learning society.
[RJS:] That is one important form of learning, but it is also important that people have the chance to learn without self-reflection: just learning by doing, by exploring, by games. Perhaps once a year they think back and reflect what they have been learning. Reflection can spoil a lot of learning; people don't like to reflect all the time; some people never like to reflect. Why should we force them to become like scientists? I would call this 'educationalised' learning, as it is done in art schools. The other way is just finding situations where you have a chance to learn: to have variation, to have contact, to interact with experts, to get feedback from clients, to be involved in innovation, in experiments or designing tools or web pages. All these kinds of things help people a lot to learn.
[MT:] If we want to improve and enhance learning we have to create way for unlearning, that is unlearning the previous routines, the routines we have in the ways of working together etc. Unlearning is as much important as learning, and we should discover new ways for facilitating unlearning.
[YK:] Unlearning for me is problematic, because to me it is more a question of understanding what you learn. If you have it incorporated in your body you might make use of it or not, but it is there, it cannot be stolen from you, it cannot be erased. The question is more to be reflective. Looking at the sort of tacit knowledge and values embodied in organisations that is more difficult to change than formal knowledge.
[RJS:] I also have a problem with unlearning, especially if you treat it from an individual perspective. You should look at it from a collective level. I also think that all unlearning is learning. The evidence shows that if you want people to unlearn something they should learn something else instead; it cannot just be erased or confiscated. In that respect there is a huge body of research especially related to young people.
Event E&T Cluster: Fiesole Oct 01
Descriptors D-WBL            
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Editor: Sabine Manning  © WIFO