Learning is least likely to occur the higher one goes in an organization

learning within organizations create-learning team building and leadership

Sometimes you read something, that seems obvious, and the light bulb flickers on in your mind.

Reading Russell Ackoff’s ‘Re-Creating the Corporation: A Design of Organizations for the 21st Century’ this line struck me;

“It should be noted that in most organizations mistakes tend to be concealed even from those who make them. The likelihood of such concealment increases with rank or status. Therefore, the higher the rank, the greater the claim to omniscience. This implies that learning is least likely to occur the higher one goes in an organization.”

Consulting and executive / leadership coaching with managers and teams of managers that are higher in the organization I find that their goals are more long term and abstract. That the mistakes that they make, may not be felt for months or even years. As opposed to front-line staff that have goals and metrics of shorter time-spans, usually days to months.

When a front-line staff makes a mistake it is visual and there for all to see, and the person who can learn and develop a solution quickly, learns from the experience.

However managers and senior level employees cannot see short-term how the choices they make turn out. We (as employees) have to trust that they are gaining wisdom AND being held properly accountable from their choices and using their best judgment.

How to learn from ambiguous choices:

  • Surround yourself with those that will challenge your ideas and choices.
  • Ask people who are not in your organization. Find an executive group or start your own executive round-table to discuss challenges and lessons learned.
  • Keep the mind-set that you can learn new things
  • Constantly ask people who are involved in the work. Go-to the site of where your decision will impact others and talk with them. Listen and adjust as needed.
  • Take professional development classes, even if you are an expert take a class and put yourself in a learners mindset.
  • Work with an executive coach.
  • Ensure that those who you are accountable for, have the necessary competence to-do their level of work and provide you with needed information.
  • Learn what you need to know, and DON’T claim the age or ignorance or time is a stopping you from learning.
  • Filter out what you don’t need to know.
  • Stay in the position long enough to see what may happen with the choices you make.
  • Listen, Listen, Listen, and listen some more.


What do you think?

In what ways might mangers and senior executives continue to learn? team building leadership innovation expert michael cardus

michael cardus is create-learning

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