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Organizational Cognition

A recent post on organizational cognitive load got me thinking (I like this quote: “major learning and performance initiatives will likely fail to achieve the hoped-for outcomes if we don’t consider that there is a theoretical limit to collective throughput for learning”). I do believe organizations have distributed thinking that they apply to solving problems. Usually this is individual, but how might it be greater than that?

I think back to the Coherent Organization, and how folks are collaborating and cooperating in moving the organization forward. There’s lots of thinking going on, in many ways. Folks are solving problems in formal or informal working groups in many ways, whether achieving organizational goals directly, developing themselves together, and furthering the frontiers of their field in a variety of ways. Individual cognitive load we address through providing resources and tools. How do we reduce collective load?

In short, by making access to social networks, to collaborative media, as easy and ‘ready to hand‘ as possible. We want the focus to be on the task, not the tools. It’s about co-creating a performance ecosystem that works fluidly, seamlessly integrating the different resources we need.

It’s cultural as well as structural. You need to remove the barriers to working well, facilitating the ability to constructively interact by welcoming diversity, sponsoring psychological safety, soliciting new ideas, and providing space and time for reflection. You need leaders who walk the talk, learning out loud.

You can’t do this if you don’t understand how folks work and play together, and what it takes to get you there and stay there. The field continues to develop, but you need to be explicit about how this happen, and actively work to minimize interference with effective flow: communication and work.

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