Learn to Win!

Learning Businesses Win

Knowing Businesses Cannot Compete with Learning Businesses

Learning as a Competitive Strategy

In our observations, winning businesses behave differently from average businesses.

We believe learning as a winning business strategy means learning more and learning faster than your rivals do about your customers, your competitors, your business environment and the opportunities available for your business to win customers.

About Learning Organizations

Learning organizations realize that results are related to actions only by probability. They hire and promote people based on their talents, their curiosity, and their ability to learn. What people already know will be out of date soon. The critical issue is more about what they will be able to do in the future than what they have already done in the past.

The Future is Not Predictable

We believe Rosabeth Moss Kanter (Harvard Business School) hit the nail squarely on the head when she put forward these simple truths. "Just because something worked in the past does not mean it will work in the future, and just because something did not work in the past does not mean it will not work in the future." We would like to add that just because something worked in another company does not mean it will work in your organization.

Learning is an Action, Knowing is a State

Sun Tzu said, "If you know the enemy better than you know yourself, the outcome of the battle has already been decided". This quote is often misapplied, especially by people who believe knowledge trumps learning.

The elements of time and place were crystal clear to Sun Tzu, but he dealt with them separately. The time and place at which you must know the enemy better than yourself is at the present time and and in the present place of the battle. All the efforts to prepare for the battle, all the places visited before the battle, even the minute-by-minute assessments during the battle itself present new learnings about the enemy and about the "ground".

About Knowing Organizations

Knowing is a state, a product of the past. Learning is an action that takes place in the present. Therefore, knowledge loses value in the face of new learnings. If your business is not winning the learning race, what your business knows becomes more and more irrelevant in the face of changes introduced anywhere in the networks and systems your business serves.

Knowing Organizations Become Stagnant Organizations

While Knowing Organizations are making incremental changes, doing the things they do better and better, Learning Organizations are innovating new ways to do different things. Knowing organizations strive to get better and better at what they already do. Little thought goes into what they could become. They stagnate. Then they die.

Find Me Someone Who Knows How to Fix This

Knowing organizations put people in jobs to get internally defined results, to fix problems, to turn around failing organizations. If sales are not up to expectations, knowing organizations will bring in a sales manager who "knows" how to fix that. If manufacturing is not meeting expectations, they will bring in a new manager who "knows" how to fix it. If the company is not meeting investors' expectations, they will bring in a new CEO who "knows" how to fix that. Then they will continue to replace those people every few years.

Training Does Not Change Behavior in Knowing Organizations

Training in knowing organizations focuses on skills and processes with a direct impact on workplace efficiency or to check off items listed in a bureaucratic human resources development system. Neither does much to change organizational behavior in the eyes of the customers and competitors. Little or no effort is put into developing talents, training people to learn, encouraging learning, or rewarding learning. Those are the things that do change people's behavior.

A Simple Example Contrasting Knowing and Learning Organizations

While Douglas Aircraft, then the world's leading producer of commercial airliners, was perfecting the DC-7 piston powered airliner, Boeing was creating the jet powered 707. Boeing didn't know enough to make a better piston engine airliner than the DC-7. Boeing learned how to create a new class of airliner instead.

Douglas Aircraft never returned to prominence. After a merger with McDonnell Aircraft, the combination became a division of Boeing.

Contact Us to learn more about learning businesses vs knowing businesses,
or how we may help your business adopt learning as a competitive strategy.