John R. Harbison and Peter Pekar Jr. Ph.D.

We all struggle with learning in life. Most of our learning is experience-based, and in most cases we accumulate it as individuals. As adolescents, we did not have much interest in learning from our elders. Now, as managers in corporations, many of us act similarly, continuing to insist on learning from our own mistakes. Practical executives justify this by asserting there is no substitute for … [ Read more ]

Michael E. Raynor

Rather than seeking out contrary or little-understood points of view, many of us need so badly to be told we’re right that we’ll pay people to do it.

Lynda Gratton

Socrates established that while there is value in finding affirmation for existing assumptions and beliefs, the most useful learning occurs through falsification. Falsification requires the discipline of reason and hypothesis testing. What are the assumptions behind this proposal? What data or evidence would we need to prove those assumptions to be false? What do we believe to be true that is actually untrue? What do … [ Read more ]

David K. Hurst, Jerome Bruner

Psychologist Jerome Bruner contends that individual learning requires the construction of a mental model of reality to make meaning of our lives. In Actual Minds, PossibleWorlds (Harvard University Press, 1987), he suggested that there were two complementary ways of building such models. The first is the narrative method, or the telling of stories, and the second is the paradigmatic method, or the formation of logical … [ Read more ]

Eric Hoffer

In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.

Amy C. Edmondson

An exclusive focus on execution-as-efficiency leads companies to delay, discourage, or understaff investments in areas where learning is critical. It’s a given that switching to a new approach can lower performance in the short run. The fastest hunt-and-peck typist must endure a short-term hit to performance while learning to touch-type, just as the tennis player suffers initially when shifting to a new, better serve. These … [ Read more ]

Jeffrey Liker

When a learning organization takes a leap forward — for example, when it makes a breakthrough internally or with a new product — its people then slow down to see what they can gain in understanding from what they’ve just done. The only companies that are going to be able to learn in that way are those with an organizational structure that stresses a continuity … [ Read more ]

David Garvin and Amy Edmondson

An environment that supports learning has four distinguishing characteristics: psychological safety, appreciation of differences, openness to new ideas, time for reflection.

Daniel Kahneman

Organizations are out there every day, making tons of decisions, but they aren’t keeping track of them. There are many factors within organizations that make them reluctant to learn from experience, so it’s a forlorn hope, but the goal would be to have dispassionate evaluations of past decisions, and to spend some effort in figuring out why each decision did or did not pan out. … [ Read more ]

David Dunning

One of the pet phrases I have is “The road to self-insight runs through other people.” Other people can often give us invaluable feedback that can really correct an illusion that we’re suffering from.

One of my favorite, but most chilling, findings is from a study that surveyed surgical residents. They were asked about their surgical skills, and then they were given the standardized board exam. … [ Read more ]

David Smith and Craig Mindrum

Knowledge management is not just about making information, news or content readily available—even content indexed by performance need; this form of knowledge sharing and content management is too passive. What a flat organization needs is actionable knowledge, and the best kind of such knowledge will likely come from another part of a company: “I know what you’re trying to do; here’s what we did, and … [ Read more ]

Roderick Gilkey and Clint Kilts

Ambitious people don’t like failing or looking stupid. As the social scientist Chris Argyris (one of the fathers of organizational-learning theory) put it, smart people have trouble learning because it involves so much floundering and failure.

Mohandas Gandhi

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

Paul J. H. Schoemaker

The performance culture really is in deep conflict with the learning culture. It’s an unusual executive who can balance these.

Jim Clemmer

True and lasting security comes from constant growth and development. We can’t manage change, but we can be change opportunists. The higher our rate of personal growth and development, the more likely we are to master the opportunities change unexpectedly throws in front of us. To master change and build a life of ever-deeper growth, we need to make learning a way of life rather … [ Read more ]

Benjamin Schwarz

Magazine and journal articles are usually the best forum for bold and original arguments…most books…tend to have (at best) a kernel of an important idea, padded with superfluous case studies and second-rate reporting.

Nolan Bushnell

The way to an interesting life is to stay on the steep part of the learning curve.

George Santayana

Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve…and when experience is not retained…infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

P Ranganath Nayak, David A. Garvin, Arun N. Maira, and Joan L. Bragar

Learning can be initiated by curiosity (“Is there a better way to do this?”); by happenstance (“I was visiting a customer’s factory, and guess what I learned!”); or by daily experience (“I tried a modification to the sales pitch, and it worked!”). It can also be initiated by crisis (“We are losing market share and money. We must become customer-focused, efficient, and fast.”). However, transformational … [ Read more ]

Stuart Crainer

Management is a magpie science, picking up pieces of wisdom from all over the place, and managers are natural magpies, picking up pearls of wisdom where they find them.