Why Knowledge Programs Fail: A C.E.O.’s Guide to Managing Learning

Senior executives at many of the largest corporations around the world have embraced knowledge or learning as part of their long-term vision. A focus on knowledge and learning makes sense: knowledge is increasingly an important source of competitive advantage. However, the business impact of most knowledge management or learning organization programs is modest at best. We estimate that about one-sixth of these programs achieve very significant impact within the first two years; half achieve small but important benefits; and the remaining third — the failures — have little business impact. Based on our five years of involvement in knowledge and learning organization programs we believe that effectively managed learning can have a significant strategic impact on most companies within the first two years. The purpose of this article is to provide C.E.O.’s with sufficient guidance to lead and manage learning and to insure that their organizations achieve significant strategic benefits quickly.

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