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30 things I have learned about learning in organisations

Bruce Britton

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1st Jun 2015

This year – 2015 – Framework celebrates its 30th birthday. As well as being a time for celebration, an anniversary is also a good time for reflection. I have been a member of Framework for 15 of its 30 years and during that time I have worked with dozens of organisations. Many of those organisations have asked me to work with them on issues related to organisational learning and knowledge management.

After speaking at a Save the Children event earlier this year I walked along Euston Road to visit one of my favourite places in London – the Wellcome Collection. It has a great cafe and bookshop and over coffee I was thinking about my experience earlier that day. The discussions following my presentation prompted me to reflect on some of the nuggets I have learned over the past few years about learning in organisations. In his book, Better: A surgeon’s notes on performance, Atul Gawande writes about how he makes five suggestions to his medical students. The fourth suggestion is “Write something … You should not underestimate the power of the act of writing itself …Even the angriest rant forces the writer to achieve a degree of thoughtfulness.” Whilst I was browsing in the Wellcome bookshop after my coffee, I came across Matthew Frederick’s 101 Things I Learned at Architecture School. At an early age I hoped one day to become an architect and I love books that encourage visual thinking so I quickly became absorbed. I could see how the format – a graphic and a few sentences or paragraphs of accompanying text – was liberating for the writer – no need to develop a well-argued narrative structure, just get the ideas out! I decided right then to try writing my own version – exploring learning in orgnisations. Later, in a conversation with a colleague, the challenge of coming up with 101 things seemed very daunting but maybe I could manage 30 – one for each of Framework’s 30 years.

So I set myself the challenge over the coming weeks in 2015 to write about 30 things I have learned concerning the reality of learning in organisations. Most will be ideas that have emerged from my experience of working with thoughtful and dynamic individuals in the organisations with which I have consulted. Others may be new perspectives on topics I have written about before, that seem to have stood the test of time. Some I hope to be able to illustrate – using the format of the 101 Things series. All will focus on the demands and realities of organisational learning in the real world … and there may even be the occasional rant!

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