Gettin' culture

Org Learning: Post 3

It’s interesting to look at org learning from the perspective of culture. The idea that a team/group has know how that is different than the individual’s know how is subtle but fascinating. I can see the idea of a music group or even symphony’s ability to play together being different than just an extension of individual’s ability and that the group develops ways, norms, characteristics, ‘sounds’ or something that becomes unique to that culture. And that this is a different way of learning that is based on an individual’s cognitive process. Sometimes there seems to be such a focus in the literature and education on the cognitive processes of learning – individual cognitive, social cognitive, even the constructivist viewpoint seems to have strong elements of cognitive processing.

Clearly there is a significant aspect of learning that comes through reflection on action, abstraction, planning new actions, acting, and so on… I just think that when working as a team or group or as an individual that sometimes there is learning or know how or knowledge that just seems to be there, especially if you’re in the ‘flow’. This may be considered more intuitive or accessing the universal aspect…

The reading on the flute manufacturing companies and the idea of the ‘know how’ of a symphony playing as a group being a different kind of learning than change just triggered some recollections. I’ve been in some different experiences/situations when it seemed like something other than just a cognitive process was going on. If I consider a few of the teams or groups (by all means not all) that I’ve been a part of when there was a high level of performance there was, on certain occasions, a kind of knowingness and accord (or cohesiveness), that I would say seemed different than a cognitive level. I would say it was more intuitive. Of course, these were more rare moments when the ‘flow’ was happening and not necessarily predictable. But there was something noticeable. And usually such occurrences came after a long time of working together, and perhaps intense conflict, at times.

I recall reading about peak performances in a book by Herbert Benson, MD, entitled, “The Breakout Principle”. This was a study of various ways an individual can trigger a ‘breakout’ which can open a door to peak experiences where one is ‘in the flow’ – either creatively, athletically, productively, or spiritually. I realize that that this is again trying to move from an individual experience and assuming a group may work in the same way and as such. However, I wonder that if a group is having a peak experience such as a symphony, team, (or perhaps even a quilting party…), it could be similar to the cultural experience of  a team or an organization that has ‘know how’  suggested by Cook and Yanow suggest in their “Culture and Organizational Learning”.

I guess I’m saying that I resonate with the idea that there may be other ways of knowing and learning than cognitively oriented.


3 Responses to “Gettin' culture”

  1. 1 Edward Howard 28 September 2009 at 11:02 am


    I wonder if some of what you describe at flow within a team environment isn’t a confluence of two things… one being the progression and growth of a team to a point of high functioning but then combining that will having a perfect mix of knowledge and roles in the team, where each member is so well fit to his/her role and the knowledge he/she possess is so tacit, that the entire team can begin to function as if the tasks at hand were tacit in nature. I think this concept of group flow that you introduce. I’ll be there is some great writing out there on the subject.
    Being a motor heard by hobby, I often think of World Class Rally teams. In these teams of up to 10 people, each person has a very critical role to play in the race, which may last weeks. From Driver(s), suspension mechanics, engine mechanics, drive train mechanics, transportation, navigation, logistics etc. These teams, especially given the high stakes and very competitive nature of their tasks, go through many failures and much conflict before becoming high functioning teams, but they are still limited by their individual skills, each of which will only lead to success if all of the others possess the same level of skill in his/her area. When a one of these rally teams achieves high function combined with high skill, then the flow beings and races are won. But it a major coming together and I would imagine when it happens it feels seamless and tacit in nature.

  2. 3 yovhane 28 September 2009 at 12:54 pm

    I wonder what experiences or contributions make up organizations which function in silos versus those of organizations which function as collaborative learners. A single person can only contribute so much to an entire population before their actual personal influence fades and the organization must uphold or prolong the practices which were initially introduced. The leadership and execution style of the symphony conductor may or may not be observed long after the conductor has exited the scene. Depending on time or buy-in, the organization may adopt the practices and values for future use.
    I agree that there are different ways of learning and this extends to different sources of knowledge. Knowledge can come from a teacher in the classroom or authority figure at work. However, knowledge comes from peers also whether its in the reflector/mirror environment or on a collaborative project. I appreciate the collaborative cmap’s ability to point out our entire class’ meaning making process as individual contributions to a wider project. These exchanges with peers which may alter or solidify our perception support the constructivist theory which I see everyday in adult learning, let alone organizational learning.

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