Essay on Is Yours a Learning Organization

Words: 4938
Pages: 20


Is Yours a Learning Organization?
Using this assessment tool, companies can pinpoint areas where they need to foster knowledge sharing, idea development, learning from mistakes, and holistic thinking.

by David A. Garvin, Amy C. Edmondson, and Francesca Gino

Daniel Chang

EADERS MAY THINK that getting their organizations to learn is only a matter of articulating a clear vision, giving employees the right incentives, and providing lots of training. This assumption is not merely flawed – it’s risky in the face of intensifying competition, advances in technology, and shifts in customer preferences. Organizations need to learn more than ever as they confront these mounting forces. Each company must become a learning
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Because all three building blocks are generic enough for managers and firms of all types to assess, our tool permits organizations and units to slice and dice the data in ways that are uniquely useful to them. They can develop profiles of their distinctive approaches to learning and then compare themselves with a benchmark group of respondents. To reveal the value of all these comparisons, let’s look in depth at each of the building blocks of a learning organization.

David A. Garvin ( is the C. Roland Christensen Professor of Business Administration and the chair of the Teaching and Learning Center, and Amy C. Edmondson ( is the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management and the chair of the doctoral programs, at Harvard Business School in Boston. Francesca Gino ( is a visiting assistant professor of organizational behavior and theory at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

110 Harvard Business Review


March 2008


BUILDING BLOCK 1: A supportive

learning environment. An environment that supports learning has four distinguishing characteristics. Psychological safety. To learn, employees cannot fear being belittled or marginalized when they disagree with peers or authority figures, ask naive questions, own up to mistakes, or present a minority viewpoint. Instead, they must be comfortable expressing their thoughts about the work at hand. Appreciation of differences. Learning