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Organisational Learning: What Can We Learn From Crocodiles?

The presentation focuses on key themes related to Organisational Learning. We use some facts about Crocodiles in our storyboard to illustrate fundamental elements that need to be heeded by practitioners. We argue that if we use Crocodile's style of learning in our institutions, we will have better chances to succeed in setting up sustainable learning organisations.

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Organisational Learning: What Can We Learn From Crocodiles?

  1. 1. Organizational Learning: Towards Development of Sustainable Knowledge Institutions Training Material | April 2015 What can we learn from Crocodiles ?
  2. 2. A World Full of Challenges Escalating challenges Increased competition Excellence & Quality requirements Increased uncertainty Effects of external changes Implications on internal environments
  3. 3. Organisational Learning Promotes the concept of learning in institutions through people.. and to become incubators of intellects to create knowledge that will support improvement opportunities and/or in facing challenges ..
  4. 4. But is there any relations between the survival of Crocodiles and the concept of Learning? Let us explore!
  5. 5. Crocodiles are amazing creatures that were able to survive for more than 250 million years, although they: 1. live in severely limited environments (e.g., rivers, lakes, etc.); 2. are constantly threatened; & 3. are targets for hunters; its skin considered finest and best (cost $15,000 and more)..
  6. 6. So how Crocodiles managed to survive & outlived the dinosaurs?
  7. 7. Let us find out some basic characteristics of Crocodiles that differentiates them to some extent from other species ..
  8. 8. Crocodiles learn to become self-dependent from birth - they are left to hunt for their own food short after they hatch; catching insects and small fish.. and their prey grow as they grow. 1. Self-Reliance [Hard Life Journey]
  9. 9. Crocodiles enjoy the strongest immune system compared to all living creatures although they: 1. live in highly polluted water; and 2. get severely injured, but recover very smoothly.. 2. Self-Programming [Self-Learning] & Perseverance for Survival
  10. 10. Crocodiles can : • hold breath under water for more than 3 hours; • reduce heartbeat rate; a pulse every 30 seconds; • bear hunger for long periods and sometimes up to months! 3. Patience and Endurance
  11. 11. Are these reasons enough to explain its survival for this long compared to Dinosaurs?
  12. 12. Crocodiles vs Dinosaurs? Despite the size and force of the Dinosaurs, they were not able to survive the serious natural disasters that occurred 65 million years ago, hence were exposed to extinction!!
  13. 13. But how did Crocodiles managed to live this long?
  14. 14. Among the primary reasons is Crocodiles’: [Ability to adapt to changes]
  15. 15. Adaptation to the Environment Although Crocodiles were exposed to disasters, they developed learning capabilities that enabled them to adapt to the environments they lived in
  16. 16. SO! ADAPTATION is one of the most important reasons for Crocodiles survival !!
  17. 17. What is ADAPTATION?
  18. 18. Adaptation: In Biology: «… is linked to the ability of organisms to evolve in their environments in order to increase the chances of survival and reproduction ..»
  19. 19. «Adaptation is referred to the « institution's ability to sense the need for change, and be changed ». In Management Science:
  20. 20. 10s ? 100s ? 1000s ? How many change variables surround you?
  21. 21. 10s ? 100s ? 1000s ? Many indeed! But are these variables controllable and/or can be taken advantage of?
  22. 22. “Change is the only constant in life”, and have both positive and negative effects on institutions and individuals..
  23. 23. Let us see some of the forces that are pressuring institutions to change:
  24. 24. Enormous developments in the field of Information and Communication Technologies has become a challenge to human skills and capacities to be absorb. 1. New & Disruptive Technologies
  25. 25. 2. Government and Legislative Requirements Compliance requirements have been pressuring institutions to be more efficient, effective, and efficacious.
  26. 26. 3. Change for Continuous Improvement Changes in external environments have been pressuring institutions to implement Total Quality Management principles, that have had in turn reflective consequences on internal systems and structures ..
  27. 27. Constant changes in customers needs and expectations, impacting institutions value chain and its staff. 4. Increasing Customers Expectations
  28. 28. Social networking tools have become one of the primary engines of the change machine in today’s world .. 5. Social Media
  29. 29. Governments have been paying attention to work concepts similar to those in the private sector.. pushing for wide scale changes in how they operate and create value. 6. Global Competitiveness
  30. 30. There are definitely many other reasons for institutions to change !!
  31. 31. Maintaining Productivity Developing Innovation Capacity Desire to develop, improve, and excel Adaptability with life variables Increasing Performance Levels Reasons for Change, in simpler terms?
  32. 32. BUT.. How to deal with a change as a purposeful, deliberate, and planned activity?
  33. 33. What do you think about Cooperative Learning?
  34. 34. Supports the ability to change at a faster pace by supporting the construction of cognitive abilities and resources capable to succeed with the change. Cooperative Learning
  35. 35. Implementation of cooperative learning in an organizational context, builds the foundations to set up a learning organisation.
  36. 36. But in order build a learning organisation, we need to understand the Learning Equation!
  37. 37. = Possession of learning capabilities Overcoming Learning Obstacles proper management and employment of acquired knowledge to make the desired change Learning Equation
  38. 38. The point is: in order to address current & future challenges, we need to overcome learning impediments (disabilities) first !
  39. 39. There are many obstacles that affect the ability of both individuals & institutions to learn or slow down the process of learning . Learning Impediments?
  40. 40. Let us explore what was said by the most prominent researchers in the field of organisational learning. Learning Disabilities We focus on what was pointed out by: Professor Peter Senge from Harvard University
  41. 41. Me! We ? 1st Disability: I Am My Position [Focus on Self] This disability applies to both individuals and workgroups who focus only on their small part within institutions rather than on the larger system as a whole.
  42. 42. When the focus is limited to the responsibilities and duties with little sense of the results produced, we lose the overall vision! leading to myopic and non- systemic views of the institution.
  43. 43. Associated with a state of mind that is used to be suspicious of others and on passing blames .. [Others “screw up” and we have to protect ourselves]. 2nd Disability: The Enemy is out There
  44. 44. This kind of disability is more like a “denial of responsibility”.. that tend to “see the problem outside us”; due to the non-systemic ways of looking at the world and inability to see how our actions extend beyond the boundary of our positions.
  45. 45. Expressed differences that passes blames and do not allow open discussions, may lead to failure in detecting the root cause and assumptions behind a given situation..
  46. 46. 3rd Disability: Illusion of Taking Charge Associated with feelings and beliefs of management that everything is under control and handled appropriately. At this level, learning stops!
  47. 47. This 3rd disability convinces one that he/she is futuristic and their decisions are proactive, despite reality, which indicates that their actions as merely reactions! (passive or reactive) ..
  48. 48. True “proactive orientation” comes from seeing how our own actions contribute to problems.
  49. 49. 4th Disability: Fixation on Events Associated with focus and engagement in events and details.. distracting the focus of the institution.. The focus usually is on the problem not on causes and consequences ..
  50. 50. In this disability, the institution is unable to connect things to each other.. Focuses on short- terms, and neglects long-term targets !
  51. 51. This disability distracts us from seeing the longer term patterns of change that underlie events and from understanding the causes that underlie the patterns. Thus, generative thinking can’t be sustained if people focused on events!
  52. 52. 5th Disability: The Parable of the Boiled Frog Appears when an institution overlooks small but constant changes.. and get used to neglect minor changes, which may lead to aggravation, threatening it overtime.
  53. 53. Can you put a FROG in a pot and cook it without it jumping to the outside? Let us explain this with a Frog!
  54. 54. Scientific experiments have shown that if a FROG is placed in a pot with water, and you lift up temperature slowly but continuously, the FROG will get used to the change and will not feel the danger until it dies !
  55. 55. This example points to the importance that institutions need to carry deep analysis of any GIVEN CHANGE in internal and/or external environments, by implementing rigorous management systems for detection, impact evaluation, and response development.
  56. 56. 6th Disability: Delusion of Learning from Experience Associated with dependency on previous experiences and personal intelligence to deal with situations.. Though we can't deny the importance of experience that we develop through error and trail scenarios, but do you recon that past experiences will yield same results in different times, places, and people?!
  57. 57. There is a constant need to build new experiences from the perspective of “systems thinking’; that recognises the mutual influences between different systems; social, psychological, organisational, technological, external factors, etc.
  58. 58. 7th Disability: Myth of Management Team Associated with beliefs and assumptions that teams and committees are breathers to distribute risks, avoid accountability, and make them feel safe!
  59. 59. Many management teams assume that group and committee decision will be more appropriate.. “if you have a problem, then call for a meeting, or form a committee and pass the problem to the group”!!
  60. 60. With this 7th disability, management spend their time fighting for turf, avoiding anything that will make them look bad personally, and pretending that everyone is behind the team's collective strategy.
  61. 61. Do you think teams, groups and committees decisions will always be right ?
  62. 62. If we look into how teams and groups normally work, we find many members avoid conversation dialogues that may make them look bad or prone to blame, and tend to make decisions that will satisfy everyone! Do you think that we will be solving problems or learning by such an act? LEARNING! No
  63. 63. Let us go back to Crocodiles and check how they overcame Senge’s 7 learning disabilities?!
  64. 64. Some Facts about Crocodiles: • Can weigh over 1200 kg. • Can live up to 100 years. • Crocodiles are cold-blooded. • Need hot atmosphere to stay alive; lives in continents except Europe. • There are about 23 types of crocodiles. • Changed characteristics as they evolved, and some got extinct. • When crocodiles lose teeth, they are quickly replaced. They can go through 8,000 teeth over a lifetime.
  65. 65. Crocodiles learned different ways to cope and adapt .. Let us see some of them :
  66. 66. Re-inventing Self Transformed from ground reptiles to amphibians swimming oceans.. also from eating plants to meat eaters!
  67. 67. Building New Capabilities A Crocodile can move alarmingly fast; up to 40 mph per hour!
  68. 68. The Sense to Change and Plan for it Because they’re cold blooded, Crocodiles need to come out of water in Winter, and stay out for long periods.. But in summer, it stays in water or in shadows, and hunt in darkness !
  69. 69. Self Consciousness and Understanding Crocodiles swallow their food out of water (even the fish) to prevent water entering their stomach.. Which may drown them .. [they have a filter valve that prevents water entry when swallowing].
  70. 70. Creativity and Innovation Crocodiles retain some stones in their stomach, to help them in grinding the food !!
  71. 71. Commitment Crocodiles lay their eggs in nests above the level of water to avoid drift.. Females spray water on nests continuously to remain moist so they don’t dry and help the eggs to hatch.
  72. 72. Spirit of Perseverance and Determination Female Crocodiles look after the hatched eggs for several months, however, 99% of crocodiles die as they become easy targets for snakes, lizards, mice, and birds!
  73. 73. Team Building Crocodiles use teamwork to trap their prey; capable of coordinating their actions in sophisticated ways and assuming different roles according to each individual’s abilities.
  74. 74. Selection of Appropriate Strategies Crocodiles are fitted with an incredible hunting capabilities to kill their prey .. & to overcome large prey, they use fast rotational movement in water to paralyse its prey movement and draining it!
  75. 75. Expect Participation and support the ethics and values of Teamwork Crocodiles accept collective eating and sharing of large prey ..
  76. 76. Intelligent interaction with changes in the environment Crocodiles do not migrate behind water and rain as the rest of animals.. Some types of crocodiles can sleep for several months in caves near dry rivers!
  77. 77. Commitment to the Logic of Continuous Development and Improvement Some Crocodiles swim long distances to find alternative places for water and food.. They do not accept narrow view points!
  78. 78. What did you learn from Crocodiles so far?
  79. 79. • Spirit of Perseverance and Determination • Team Building • Selection of Appropriate Strategies • Expect Participation and support the ethics and values of Teamwork • Intelligent Interaction with changes in the Environment • Commitment to the Logic of Continuous Development and Improvement • Self-Reliance • Self-Programming • Patience and Endurance • Re-inventing Self • Building New Capabilities • The Sense to Change and Plan for it • Self-Consciousness and Understanding • Creativity and Innovation • Commitment What can we learn from Crocodiles?
  80. 80. • We also learned that (ADAPTATION) is one of the secretes behind the survival of Crocodiles. • Crocodiles have used the concept of learning to overcome the challenges they faced over more than 250 million years.
  81. 81. Learning has its methods and theories that we need to comprehend in order to overcome learning obstacles, without which the path of learning may be slower or get paralysed!
  82. 82. Do you reckon if we follow Crocodiles learning methods in our institutions, will we succeed in implementing a learning organisation?
  83. 83. Remember: The Law of Learning is same in all parts of life
  84. 84. The starting point need to be: the establishment of a workplace culture that addresses organisational learning disabilities and supports positive energy, and thus positive learning ..
  85. 85. Do you think we need leaders to succeed with learning?
  86. 86. According to psychologists and management researchers, the majority of people prefer the presence of a LEADER behind any strategic direction.. who would maintain a cohesive team appearance.
  87. 87. The Role of Leaders WE need Leaders who can promote the principles of positive behaviors through leading by example.. and in addressing negative behaviours generating negative energies..
  88. 88. We need leaders who can establish a culture that encourages dialogue and the exchange of ideas and sharing of knowledge.. Remember, knowledge and negative energy are opposites.. while ignorance and negative energy go hand in hand ..
  89. 89. Positivity and learning are associated with our comprehension of the overall picture..
  90. 90. Thus, we need leaders who can support staff to stretch outside their usual learning circles (comfort zones) to explore new learning circles.
  91. 91. 2 important characteristics of leaders that we need to search for !
  92. 92. Interactive leaders who can guide and work with their staff to help them succeed in their job duties.. [ They monitor performance and handle failures ].
  93. 93. & Futuristic leaders who can draw paths for their staff showing them the future of their institution.. They participate in development and implementation of the desired change.
  94. 94. If you are unable to find such a leader, try to hire a Crocodile!! 
  95. 95. How much you know about Crocodiles? Let us check!
  96. 96. What is the real story behind Crocodile tears?
  97. 97. A chemical process to get rid of excess salt in the body, since the skin has no pores.. Therefore they perspire from their eyes! Crocodile tears are only but a sweat !
  98. 98. Those who will not master the secret of Crocodiles and their methods, will surly miss their opportunities to evolve and survive the uncertain future.. Final Note:
  99. 99. By positive learning, we can create the knowledge necessary to make us as individuals, or organizations survive the challenges of ever-changing environments. Unfortunately there is no other option! Thank you.
  100. 100. Dr. Ali M. Al-Khouri Professor and Fellow, British Institute of Technology and E-commerce London, United Kingdom @DrAliAlKhouri Email: Slide Share: Slideshare.netdralkhouri Academia: academia.orgdralkhouri