If you are in management/leadership in any organization you should be listening to the HBR Ideacast. I have the feed in my iTunes but normally only listen when I see that the title looks interesting. Mark Oehlert reminded me to listen in this post. So, of course I listened...TWICE...when I saw that they were talking about Learning Organizations.
HBR IdeaCast 83: Learning Organizations & HBR Editor's Preview (link is to the archive list)
Featured Guests: Harvard Business School professors David Garvin and Amy Edmonson; Harvard Business Review editor Thomas A. Stewart.
You can also read Is Yours a Learning Organization?
They make some great points about the learning organization and I like how they've simplified what it means to be a learning organization.
However, the whole time I was listening I kept thinking about the average worker. The rank and file guy and gal working for the org leader or manager. Somehow we've still got this top down mentality. Yes, of course having a learning organization requires "leadership behavior that provides reinforcement". But I would argue that many of the most knowledgable tech savvy workers have created their own "Learning Organizations". Accept they call it Facebook, and/or LinkedIn or any of the other social networking tools available today.
Maybe the HBR audience is old people managing big departments in big companies and so a Learning Organization still somehow requires "structure". I'd say to managers..."Don't kid yourself! YOU are not part of your employee's "learning organization." Or maybe you are. How do you know for sure? Have you friended your employee in Facebook? Are you "connected" via linkedIn? If you are then you probably consider your direct reports to be more like peers and they have your respect. If you aren't then they are probably laughing at you right now. They do what you ask and little else...at least related to the company. On the side they are starting companies, and offshoring most of the work you ask them to do. [Read: The 4-hour Workweek to better understand]
Corporate life can be "gamed" and I've seen it take on many forms at many companies for many years.