In What Ways Do You Personally Learn from the External Environment?

An effective learning organization is one that

· has a high commitment to creativity and innovation,
· promotes a healthy view of risk with a tolerance for failure,
· seeks a diversity of background and experience in its human resources,
· encourages freedom of expression and input,
· supports lifelong learning opportunities, and
· maintains an entrepreneurial spirit among its leadership and workforce.

In order to discover some key underlying concepts to the above attributes within an effective learning organization, I conducted research on the orthopedic industry, which is highly dependent on organizational learning, creativity, and innovation for its success in the global marketplace.  Choosing two of the leading companies in this industry, Zimmer and Biomet (prior to their merger), with combined annual sales of $4.3 billion, I interviewed 10 mid- to senior-level corporate executives to develop a composite picture of what makes an effective learning organization and what other organizations can learn from this composite picture.  The answers to one of the research questions asked of the leaders follows:

In what ways do you personally learn from the external environment, or outside your company, that help you to be more creative in your responsibilities?

Responses:

· Use of the internet as a teaching tool for trends and new ideas
· Scanning trade publications and business periodicals
· Formal and informal meetings with end users of the product
· Interaction with world-wide sales force to gain insights for product design improvements and potential new products and expanded markets
· Active participation in professional organizations
· Use of third-party consultants to explore implications of latest trends

“I set aside several hours a week to review trade publications and other supply chain literature,” notes a vice president who oversees international logistics, adding, “I also routinely attend trade forums around the world.”  A research and development specialist routinely talks with surgeons and medical specialists in order to seek ways to incrementally improve product lines.

Based on the above findings and other feedback, one can strongly presume that a major key to the great success of Zimmer and Biomet in the highly competitive global marketplace of the orthopedic industry is their deep understanding and commitment to the definition and concepts of a learning organization.  These concepts are transferable to other corporate ventures and environments.  Indeed, for organizations to be successful in today’s worldwide economy, they must adopt and sustain the principles of an effective learning organization.

Self-reflection Question:

In what ways do you personally learn from the external environment, or outside your company, that help you to be more creative in your responsibilities?

Consider sharing your responses with replies to this blog post.

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