Monday, September 19, 2016

Organizational Learning: 3 Things We Can Learn From NASA

We recently read the book Organizational Learning at NASA: The Challenger & Columbia Accidents for our organizational behavior class in the Pepperdine University EDOL Doctoral program. 

 The prompt for our class discussion was “What 3 things can we learn from NASA about how people in organizations learn? What elements like fear, lack of transparency for example, can impede learning?”

These were my three takeaways:

1- Leaders are responsible for establishing the social context for learning in the organization. They set the tone for how supervisors, peers, and direct reports will interact. For information to flow freely up and down the chain, members need to feel they are important to the overall mission, and their input is valuable. Title and position cannot become an obstacle to the flow of pertinent information that can impact the mission in a positive or negative way.

2- For an organization to learn, the lessons have to be institutionalized. Shared across the departments and silos of the organization so supervisors and members at all levels can learn the new knowledge and integrate it into processes and procedures.

3- Organizations have to invest in institutional memory by establishing systems to capture the knowledge from employees that are leaving, ensuring it is accessible to new members as they are on-boarded to the organization.

This book presents an opportunity to examine learning at NASA over a span of several decades. It offers lessons that leaders of organizations can implement to improve their learning practices to become more efficient and perform at a higher level.


Connect with Jonathan on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Jonathan is an experienced leader and coach with a proven record of leading and developing others to perform at higher levels and improve their overall effectiveness. He has a passion for learning and developing others to improve as leaders. Jonathan brings lessons from over 25 years of experience leading in U.S. Army Infantry, Cavalry, and Armor units in a wide range of assignments, to include leading soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Korea. He is a decorated veteran and a recipient of the General Douglas MacArthur Leadership Award. Jonathan served as a faculty member at the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY before transitioning from the Army in 2015. He is a certified Executive Coach and operates his own leadership coaching business. Check out his website here:


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