The following articles provide a good introduction to some of the material that we may choose to explore. We suggest you review them prior to the first class. All of these readings can be found in the Materials section of the OTL Toolkit.
- Dee Hock, Birth of the Chaordic Age, "Prologue: On the Nature and Creation of Chaordic Organizations"
- Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline, chapters 1 and 2
- Chris Argyris, Harvard Business Review, "Teaching Smart People to Learn"
- Edgar Schein, "How Can Organizations Learn Faster?" Sloan Management Review
For the first session we'd like you to reflect on your own past learning experiences both as an individual and as the member of some group or organization of your choice. We'd also like you to consider where you might want to take your own learning in the future. The "Preliminary Reflections" questions will help you focus your thoughts. They are posted in the Materials & Assignments sections of the OTL Toolkit. Your reflections will consitute your first entry in you OTL Jounal.
We'll solicit suggestions for texts and readings from each participant in the seminar. Your suggestions should be personally meaningful and have some intuitive (although not necessarily identifiable) connection to the general topic of the course. Instructors' suggestions include
- Gareth Morgan, Images of Organizations
- Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline
- Robert Quinn, Beyond Rational Management
- Peter Senge, Presence
Your preliminary reflections for the first class will be the first entry in your OTL Journal. We will ask you to record reflections about the class and the topics we explore on a regular basis (at least one entry per week). Your OTL Journal will serve two functions: it will allow you review the development of your own thinking over the course of the semester and it will be an ongoing source of data for testing hypotheses about organizations that learn. Both of these goals can be served by an experiment in which we ask you to participate: electronic Journaling.
We've set up a private area for electronic Journals on the course Blackboard. Blackboard is a distance learning technology that supports a number of neat functions including discussion forums, virtual chat rooms, group communication tools and much else. For now we’ll use Blackboard primarily for the electronic Journals. We invite (but don’t require) you to electronically Journal your initial reflections for the first assignment. This is a good way to test out Blackboard and get familiar with the technology. It will also allow us to review your thoughts prior to our first class and build the session around them. For this first assignment, the electronic part is optional. But you have nothing to loose by trying it out. See the Blackboard instructions for details.
The following are very preliminary thoughts about the directions the course might take. They are offered in a spirit of openness and transparency to help you understand our thinking and the considerations that have shaped the seminar. Don't be alarmed if you're unfamiliar with specific references, terminology or issues. Any of these could, at your suggestion, become part of the subject matter of the course.
These readings have inspired our own thinking about learning and organizations. This bibliography will grow over the course of the semester as all participants add entries that have changed and informed our thinking and practice. Many are included in the Amazon OTL List and the Inspirations folder of the class Toolkit..
Assumptions & Hypotheses
A few of our current guiding principles for the course. This list is a work in progress.
- Less is more (when it comes to instructor input and direction)
- Publish all assumptions - planning and shaping of the course should be transparent
- Chaos is to learning what spices are to cooking
- Feedback is required for learning
- Wholes are different from their parts
- A successful class is itself an organization that learns
- Steering energy is critical for organizations - without steering organizations flounder
A few possible topics that we may choose to explore in depth:
- Mental models
- Single/double loop learning
- Thinking in systems
- Individual vs team learning
- Organizational metaphors
- Decision making
- Chas, order & control
- Language & culture - shared meaning, dialogue & discussion
- Leading organizations
- Hierarchy and accountability
- Communities of practice & commitment
- Tension and polarities in organizations
- Resistance and anxiety in learning
- Organizations as hypotheses
See Session Outlines & Outcomes for information about where we've been and where we're going.