John Seely Brown explains organizational learning methods that work

Organizations must develop new ways of learning and managing information to remain competitive during a time of "increasingly rapid change." Simply sharing best practices doesn't work all that well anymore, especially in an environment of changing contexts, said John Seely Brown during a keynote presentation at KMWorld in Washington, D.C., in late October.

Brown, who is a visiting scholar and advisor to the Provost at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and independent co-chairman at the Deloitte Center for the Edge, said organizations should recognize that information and knowledge flow are fast becoming an important currency for business. Steps should be taken to improve organizational learning and help individual employees get the tools they need to accumulate and share knowledge while improving information management practices.

More about organizational learning and knowledge management strategy

Watch part 2 of this interview with JSB on knowledge flow becoming a new currency for business

Read a manifesto for information knowledge management strategy

Watch a video about Deloitte actively refining its enterprise knowledge management strategy

Learn how higher-level knowledge workers can learn and benefit from social technologies

Brown, who was chief scientist at Xerox Corp. and director of its Palo Alto Research Center, said information and knowledge management professionals can create "a massive learning environment" by offering ways for employees to improve team problem-solving and increase business performance.

"Today's work-scape is like being a whitewater kayaker," Brown said, explaining that improvisation and imagination were keys to helping employees become entrepreneurial learners, and therefore should be part of a knowledge management strategy.

Mankind is at a "fundamentally new moment in civilization," one in which a new culture of learning is evolving, he said.

Brown talked about how organizations can help facilitate and develop new approaches to organizational learning and information management in a follow-up interview with at the conference. He said they should tap the collective wisdom of peers and partners to remain competitive. Doing so "becomes part of the secret of thriving in a world of constant change and possibly commanding the day," he added.

Viewers of the 8.5-minute video will learn the following points:

  • How asking the right questions can help reframe the way organizations view their business goals, and how it might be the most valuable skill there is;
  • How improvisation can help lead organizations to new ways of tackling business problems;
  • Why knowledge management is getting trickier;
  • How to become entrepreneurial learners to become effective information and knowledge management professionals;
  • How the computer game World of Warcraft presents lessons in enterprise social collaboration that can be adapted by organizations;
  • How examples of surfers, skateboarders and others can provide a model for business as an example of collective learning using after-action reviews.


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