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The Four Characteristics of a Learning Organization

Although the road to a learning culture is unique to each organization, all learning cultures share certain characteristics. Here are four such traits:

  1. INFORMATION IS SHARED AND ACCESSIBLE. In a learning culture, data and information are not kept secret or hoarded by management. Instead, they are readily accessible, so that managers and employees share a common frame of reference.

  2. LEARNING IS EMPHASIZED AND VALUED. In a learning organization, training and learning are high priorities. At GE, Welch never stopped communicating this fundamental message, investing more than half a billion dollars per year in training and learning in the 1990s. By 2002, the year following Welch's retirement, GE estimated that it was spending about $1 billion per year on training and training-related activities.

  3. MISTAKES OR FAILURES ARE NOT PUNISHED. In a learning culture, it is okay to fail while trying new things. The key is to learn from those mistakes, so that the organization does not repeat them. This is an important characteristic of a learning organization. Nothing stifles innovation faster than punishing those who come up with ideas that do not work out.

  4. PEOPLE ARE EXPECTED TO LEARN CONSTANTLY. Learning must be a part of the culture. In other words, it must be a reflex or a habit, not something that is practiced sporadically. It is incumbent upon managers to communicate this to employees, and to lead by example.


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