The Learning Organisation

In June 2009, we were challenged with the idea of putting our team through a program that would change our working dynamics forever. To be honest, when the idea was first presented to me, I was not convinced; in fact I believed it would be a total waste of our time. Little did I realise the impact that following this program would have on our business.

And so our journey down the road of self-discovery began…

openroadThe initial program started off with a 2-hour session in which we did the DOPE test. I still remember having flashbacks to my colourful past of experimentation, but fortunately that wasn’t the type of ‘dope’ being referred to here. The concept rather revolves around the concept that we all belong to one of 4 primary bird groups, namely Dove, Owl, Peacock or Eagle. At first, this seemed rather silly to me, but once we had all completed the various questionnaires, plotted the graphs, and finally reviewed the characteristics of the respective groups we belonged to, I found myself immensely intrigued, and all of a sudden I wanted to know more.

Before I knew it, we had signed up for the full workshop and were on our way down the path to self-discovery.

The program consisted of five full day sessions, each focusing on the five main aspects of The Learning Organisation, namely:

Personal Mastery covered the aspects of being and developing oneself as a leader.  A critical aspect of this is the understanding that as long as one is in the proverbial comfort zone, there is very little chance for growth. It is only when one moves into the zone of discomfort that the opportunity for growth really presents itself.  This discomfort is brought about by being introduced to what one is missing from one’s life as a leader.

We then explored the aspect of values, each of us being given a list containing up to 30 different values. We had to identify with and highlight our top ten values. To test our true commitment to these values, we were run through a series of tests to see how true and committed we were to these. Through this process, we filtered down to our true values. What I found exceptionally interesting was how quickly one’s values change based upon the situation one finds oneself in.

Next we explored the Drivers for Change, mapped against the Sigmoid curve – the principle being that if you’re not growing you are dying. These drivers are either desperation, aspiration or anticipation. If you’re not moving up the curve, then you are rapidly moving down the curve.

Mental Models demonstrated how a team of 15 people, given exactly the same information, deduced totally different findings and how, based upon our upbringing, experiences and beliefs, built ideas that shaped the way we look at things and made decisions long before we’ve explored all the evidence.

We then moved on to Team Learning, which explores the Credibility Gap – the difference between what you say and what you do – and how this difference impacts on the picture people have of you.  We were taught how to be aware of it and make adjustments to it so that this gap could be closed, bringing about a “whole” view of oneself in the eyes of other people.

We also explored the Johari Window. Through honest responses to a structured questionnaire, we were shown where, depending on the situation we find ourselves in, we may be saying too little or not asking anything versus saying or asking too much. The Johari Window breaks us into either the Oyster, Interviewer, Lecturer or Fully Engaged, the latter being the one to strive for. Once this was been explored, we launched into the next phase where, through a series of breakaway sessions, we tested and understood the true tools of engagement: high quality advocacy and inquiry.

Systems Thinking clarified that in order to handle any situation, one needs to look beneath the surface. Just as only 10% of an iceberg is seen from above the water line, it is only by being aware of what is going on underneath that one can start addressing a situation effectively.

In the final session, Shared Vision – in my opinion, the overall purpose of the program – we learned the importance of shared, or sharing vision. Any organisation looking to create a vision for itself can either do so from the top down – where the company tells its employees what the company’s vision is, or for better results, through understanding of what each person in the organisation wants to achieve for themselves and that through sharing, the people that make up a company can work together to combine their individual visions into a combined company vision.

Although Friday the 12th of March was our last session, it was really only the beginning for our company. Through the initiatives that we have started as part of this program- such as weekly R&D sessions where our entire team takes time out to research the latest trends and develop new, innovative solutions – we have already seen many amazing developments unfold within our company.mountaintop

We now find ourselves at an interesting point in our careers, where the opportunities of the marketplace and the passion of our team unite to take us to a level not yet defined.

The sky right now is, quite literally, the limit, and it is on this note that I would like to say thank you to my incredible team and, as Zig Ziglar once said, “See you at the top!”

Ceri James, Sales and Marketing Director, JD Internet Consulting

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Ceri is the Sales and Marketing Director at Talooma. Over about 15 years, Ceri has developed his passion for meeting people and selling, during which time he has mastered the art of networking and consulting. Ceri has enjoyed watching the Internet industry grow over the past 10 years in South Africa and has been very fortunate to have been a part of it.
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