Organizations That Learn

Project Ideas

From the OTL course description:

The seminar will be project driven and both group-intensive and group-reflexive. Small groups will be asked to “adopt” several organizations of a type of their choosing, research them against the learning organization framework, and present their findings to the other members of the seminar as a final project. A number of the seminar sessions during the semester will focus on various stages of this research project. Groups will also be required throughout the semester to reflect and report on their own behavior in the context of the material we develop from the readings and the class discussion. They will also be required to document both research and findings in a manner that will allow others to build on their work.

Project Goal

The point of the project is to encourage students to work together – as individuals, as small group members and as members of the overall organization that is ISSS 476 – over an extended period of time with a common purpose. In so doing we’ll generate live data on which to reflect in the context of the material we’ve considered and provide an opportunity to test hypotheses about organizational learning. One such hypothesis is that a self-reflexive project-driven approach can result in an organization (e.g., a classroom) with a high and sustainable level of enthusiasm for learning and demonstrated learning effectiveness.

Some Possible Project Approaches

Note that the following approaches are not intended as mutually exclusive. It may be possible to combine several different approaches in a single project..

-Organization type. Small groups “adopt” a type of organization of their choosing, research them against a learning organization framework, and present their findings to the other members of the seminar as a final deliverable. Different types of organizations might include businesses, non-for-profits, professional societies, established social or religious organizations, educational institutions, etc.

After some initial context setting in the first few weeks the group presentations could extend over a substantial portion of the semester making up the bulk of the course work. Each group could be assigned two class sessions with the caveat that a substantial portion of at least one must involved conversation and feedback from the other groups and class members. Groups would be encouraged (or required) to prepare reading and written assignments to facilitate the discussion about the organization type they’ve researched.

-Communities of interest. Students will be asked to form “communities” of interest based upon an area or issue relevant to the general topic of the course. The project over the course of the semester will explore the ways in which this area can contribute to or inhibit learning – at an individual, group or organizational level. Crystallizing areas might include information technology, educational technology, educational practice, team dynamics, systems thinking, mental models, learning styles & theory, etc.

-Seeds for growth. The intuition is to have the class “construct its own DNA” so that its work over the semester will be captured, replicatible and the basis for further development, expansion and improvement by others in the program. The project would be to do whatever is necessary to have OTL live beyond itself and allow others to learn from the experience, build on it and continue to evolve OTL. The shape of the final deliverable would have to be developed by the class.

-Problem driven. Students will, as a class, be given a problem to solve. They will choose groups, a group approach and organizational structure appropriate to the problem. The problem could be a research problem (concerning organizational learning or any other field), a social or political problem (how to extricate ourselves from Iraq, approaches to resolving the Israeli-Palestinian problem, etc.), a problem relating to adult education in general or BIS in particular, etc. A problem-driven project approach could be compatible with a “communities of interest” approach (#2 above) depending upon the nature and scope of the problem. Examples of problems that might drive a class project:

-Collapse. Jared Diamond (author of The Third Chimpanzee and the Pulitzer winning Guns, Germs & Steel) has just published Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. As individuals or groups, explore these case studies in the context of organizations that learn. In what ways did these societies learn and fail to learn? What do they have to say about various views and theories of organizational learning? What do they have to say about how and why organizations do (or ought to learn)?

-Best companies to work for. Fortune magazine has just published its annual list of the 100 best companies to work for. . As individuals or groups, select a company and explore it in the context of organizations that learn. In what ways did does the company learn and fail to learn? To what degree does it approach a learning organization? How is this related to its alleged appeal to its employees. What does your exploration of the company have to say about various views and theories of organizational learning? What does ithave to say about how and why organizations do (or ought to learn)?

 

 

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