As I mentioned last week on the SocialFish blog, social organizations are serious about learning. Not just learning at conferences, but deep organizational learning. While I doubt there are many who would argue against me on that (who's going to say that learning is a bad idea?), I still don't see a whole lot of true learning organizations out there. It's much easier said than done. One reason is that learning and change go hand in hand.
In their awesome book Switch, Chip and Dan Heath outline a very clear process for understanding change that addresses reason, emotion, and systems. At the end of the book, they point out the important fact that change, like learning, takes time and repetition. In their research they examined how animal trainers teach animals to do tricks like jump through hoops and ride skateboards. It is a long process that requires repetitive praise and reward for small behavior changes.
Change isn’t an event; it’s a process. There is no moment when a monkey learns to skateboard; there’s a process. There is no moment when a child learns to walk; there’s a process. And there won’t be a moment when your community starts to invest more in a school system, or starts recycling more or starts to beautify its public spaces; there will be a process. To lead a process requires persistence.
Learning, like change, is not an event that you manage. It is a process that you facilitate and nurture. Organizations with learning cultures understand this at their core.