Learning and Change


Jeff Merrell and Kimberley Scott of Northwestern University have extended their 5 week PLN seminar, by offering a Google Plus Community called “Learning and Change”. There are already some very significant discussions occurring in this community. I am posting one example here on my blog site because it ties into some of my own thinking about organizational change management.

Here is the link to the discussion.

Vahid Masrour

Nov 20, 2013

I’ll chip in to this topic to share a realization i had today: Change management and Innovation management (à la Lean Startup) ought to be combined together to help organizations move/evolve/adapt.

But here’s the problem: the XXth Century organizational paradigm was designed with the (mostly) implicit assumption that organizations were meant to bring stability and predictability around productive (or value adding) processes. They inherently push the participants to following the almighty process, and vary as little as possible that process.

Cultivating innovation (aka adapting to an ever changing economical and social environment), demands accepting and dealing face to face with high unpredictability, and according to Lean startup, separate, different methods of management.

What this leads me to think is that organizations need to integrate at least some of the modes of thought that this demands, but this in turns implies that they have to accept at least some reduction of the stability. In other words, they have to become flexible, and therefore need to start living like the adaptation they need to do continuously are part of the daily matters and workload.

While ISO and such have helped us make our processes explicit, we now need them to be more and more fluid and changeable (while still “manageable”).

If you’ve come this far in the post, i’d love to see what you think about it, and if you have suggestions and pointers about how to deal with the ever-evolving-organization challenge, please let me know.

Kimberly Scott


Nov 21, 2013

Great to see you here, Vahid! I agree with your point that organization design and structure have not kept up with changes in the environment. Part of the problem too is that old paradigms about organization management keep getting taught, with little innovation happening in actually implementing and sustaining unique organization structures. It also takes a different skill set (and mindset) to lead in the way that you describe. Looking forward to hearing more of your ideas.

Janet Webster

Nov 21, 2013

I am not an expert in corp /org. mgmt,but I’ve been in the university setting for a long time now, and I see how slowly the gears turn and also how much more corporatized higher ed institutions have become to the dismay of many faculty  members. I’m reading Clayton Christensen’s book “Disrupting Class” which is a real eye opener for me about disruption theory and orgs / how disruptive innovations first have to go to an area of ‘nonconsumerism’  to find a foothold before they can really disrupt (which is where I think Moocs are, currently) and how the disruptions begin in non regulated spaces (cMoocs on the internet? PLNs??), eventually rendering the older approaches / systems irrelevant as the new innovations become more nimble, cost effective, efficient, and quite simply do the job better.
Fascinating stuff, and a post-PLN seminar blog post coming up once I finish the book.
I think Higher Ed is in for a ‘re-boot’.

Tanya Lau

Yesterday 2:51 AM

Yes…I’m beginning to take this view too +janet webster …’disruptions’ or challenges to the status quo are going to happen in non-regulated spaces – ie. not from the top down, but from the bottom. This is kind of the conclusion I came to after xplrpln in terms of PLNs in organisations…It’s very interesting though to consider why this is the case, as +Vahid Masrour has pointed out: organisations are by their nature (at least traditionally) driven towards maintaining order, process, predictability – the status quo.

Janet Webster

Yesterday 8:07 AM

+Tanya Lau But as Christensen points out, orgs can fail when they don’t meet the consumer demands. Tech has disrupted the music and publishing industries in profound ways. Not to say that schools are going to become defunct- but these online communities of educators ( unregulated spaces) are carving out innovative ways of doing business. What long term impact will this have on the org structures we work in?

Kimberly Scott


8:16 AM

+janet webster I agree! Having been in both corporate and higher ed, they are more similar than either would like to admit. Higher ed folks define and frame “consumer demands” differently than, say, consumer packaged goods companies, but “consumers” in this environment will have an impact whether or not we think they should.

Vahid Masrour

9:19 AM

As we discuss adaptation to changing conditions, in the particular case of higher ed, we must wonder: what do they provide to the macro organism they function in (society), and how they can deliverthat value when we consider the new means of delivery that are becoming available.

Tanya Lau

12:15 PM
 +janet webster  I see individual ‘bottom up’ action (for example, use of PLNs in orgs) – as not entirely unregulated, more under the radar, as in action that is directed by the individual rather than the organisation, but indirectly guided by organisational goals. E.g. an individual using external connections in their PLN to assist them with a work related problem via social media using their own device (unmandated by the org – because access to social media is ‘banned’ by the org) – this type of action could be seen as ‘unregulated’ but at the same time it’s indirectly guided by the org’s goals (via the individual’s role description).And in fact, this type of ‘disruptive action’ might actually help the org to better meet consumer demands by tapping directly into their needs (crowdsourcing, open innovation etc).In terms of long term impact on org structures – they will have to become flat, the hierarchical structures won’t survive, this seems to be the implication of working in a networked environment.  Harold Jarche writes about this a fair bit, eg recent post he wrote about the democratisation of workplaces http://www.jarche.com/2013/11/democracy-is-coming/I guess orgs that continue trying to hold onto the old ways of doing things eventually won’t survive either…

janet webster

12:21 PM
 Wow! +Tanya Lau That’s a really good distinction you make.
Tanya Lau

1:21 PM
 thanks +janet webster! I credit #xplrpln for helping me consider these perspectives ; )



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