“Successful organizations need to be managed as complex adaptive systems rather than as intricate controlled machines”
This wisdom is part of Amy Edmondson’s excellent work Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate and Compete in the Knowledge Economy.
Edmondson provides a refreshing update on management theory and connects those principles to the realities of leading organizational performance today. In particular, she emphasizes the importance of continuous improvement and creating a learning organization.
She offers a very pragmatic perspective, firmly rooted in the numerous reasons why organizations tend to resist learning. These include fear of failure, power dynamics, information hoarding and the insidious influence of groupthink. She explains: “… the managerial mindset that enables efficient execution actually inhibits an organization’s ability to learn and innovate.”
I appreciated her focus on communication as the essential ingredient to enabling a truly learning organization. She emphasizes the need for continuous, open and collaborative communication to support organizations in being more adaptive, tapping into employees’ individual sense of commitment and shared purpose.
Her work is not only grounded in empirical evidence, it also addresses the largely under-treated emotional dimension of organizational dynamics. In particular, she emphasizes that people need psychological safety to truly experiment and learn – essential ingredients for organizational breakthroughs.
“For over a century, we’ve focused too much on relentless execution and depended too much on fear to get things done. That era is over…human and organizational obstacles to teaming and learning can be overcome…Few of today’s most pressing social problems can be solved within the four walls of any organization, no matter how enlightened or extraordinary… Generating ideas to solve problems is the currency of the future; teaming is the way to develop, implement, and improve those ideas.”
Amy Edmondson makes a convincing case for the value of teaming as an approach to maximizing the impact, quality and value of organizational learning.