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To learn or develop?

Recently I had opportunity to participate in the Bay Area Organizational Development Network (BAodn) annual meeting in San Francisco. About halfway through the meeting I had the following thoughts:

  • Why the heck am in a meeting with a bunch of OD folks when I think of myself as an Instructional Designer?
  • What’s is organizational development? How is it different from organizational learning?
  • What the difference between development and learning?
Flash Mob Dance - Informal group learning

Flash Mob Dance - Informal Group Learning?

I realized that  really liked the folks at this meeting — it was the first meeting I’ve been to in the Bay Area where I felt “Ah, I’ve found my people.” Since I want to keep going, I had to figure out a WHY I was there — what was the connection?

Development vs. Learning

Why not start with the basics?

  • Development – stages that one goes through in one’s life or one’s life or one’s career, often thought of as change in roles (becoming a mother or becoming a manager). These stages in development can be biological (aging); psychological (maturing, identity); or sociocultural (change in roles, life or career events/problems/trajectory). In addition, there are variables such as race, gender, and sexual orientation and the impact and influence on that person’s development.
  • Learning – knowledge, skills and attitudes required to master a subject, attain performance, or understand a domain, or innovate. Learning, like development, is about change and growth. Or sometimes just about “running to stand still” — keeping up with change to maintain one’s position. There is formal and informal learning; online, face-to-face, and blended; there is the technology of learning from CMS/LMS/Performance Management systems to Webinars to games and virtual worlds. Learning is a part of development. Learning integrated with development leads to “teachable moments” — learning appropriate to developmental stages. There’s much much more but I’ll stop here.

Organizational development vs. learning

Continuing from the explanation above, then organizational development is about the stages of an organization. It has an action orientation — it’s about evaluating and creating an intervention. Examples below:

  • What an organization need when moving from start-up to mature organization
  • Using diagnostic tools to understand what “life event” an organization is facing and creating an intervention, such as:
    • Using organizational 360 or SLCQ (Strategy Leadership Culture Questionnaire)
    • Using something like the Periodic Table of Strategy (Mercer-Delta) to determine the challenge and potential strategic moves for an organization
    • Gap  of where an organization is, where they want to go, and what it will take to get there.
    • SWOT analysis – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats
  • Based on Senge’s five disciplines to create the learning organization:
    • personal mastery
    • mental models
    • shared visions
    • team learning
    • systems thinking
  • Using coaching, mentoring, other tools to improve organizational performance

Organizational Learning

Quite simply, organizational learning is the collection of stuff involved in individual and collective learning inside an organization. It is also about the analysis and support of learning processes, formal and informal.

  • Courses and curriculum
  • Informal learning – social media, water-cooler learning, blogs, wikis, enabling conversations, mentoring, etc.
  • Technology that support the above
  • Design that supports the above
  • Understanding of the cognitive and social processes that support learning
  • Understanding the organizational processes that support or impeded learning
  • Design of learning that supports organizational strategy
  • Senge’s five disciplines

It’s in the last four that we cross-over into the realm of organizational development. There is clearly a link between the two — when things aren’t working on an organizational level, often we often turn to learning and development. However, much less often, do we turn to learning and development when things ARE working — or when we want to make things better when they are already good.

Why an Instructional Designer meets with OD folks

Instructional design (ID) is too narrowly focused on creating learning — instead of being more broadly focused on creating learning specific to organizational strategy — specific enough to measure impact. Because of the narrow focus of ID, I’m am pulled to people and groups asking bigger questions, with an organizational focus.

I love thinking about how people learn, but I also need (for my sanity) to think about how organizations learn, and how individual learning is relevant in this bigger picture.

That’s why I joined BAodn.

p.s. I’m a little behind on my Learning About Wine instructional design. Will get back to it soon!

References for this Learning vs. Development article:

Posted in business, instructional design, OD.

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3 Responses

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  1. Saqib Ali says

    interesting. so sort of like the relationship between a privacy advocate and a ethicist 🙂

  2. Rani H. Gill says

    hmmm…the ID being the privacy advocate? I’m struggling with ethicist — cause to be honest, what the heck do they do?

  3. Saqib Ali says

    exactly!!! 😉

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