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Razali Ismail 

Things are changing so fast today that it is difficult to keep up with the pace. People who cannot keep up with changes may find themselves ‘downsized’ or ‘rightsized’ - or some other euphemism for out of work. A business that cannot change in tune with the global marketplace probably has no future.

What’s the answer? The answer is learning.

It is one of the few, if not the only competitive advantage available today. Moreover, it is the healthiest response in a world of rapid change. The question is no longer if you will use available technology, from voice mail to computes, of if you will use the business techniques of problem solving, meeting facilitation and teamwork. The question today is how quickly, how efficiently, and how effectively can the people in our organisation become proficient in using the technologies.

Organisations and individuals who are able to learn with the greatest ease and speed will be the most successful in the future. Today a person cannot expect the current level of knowledge and expertise to serve him or her for years ahead. That assumption will result in unemployment and disillusionment. With knowledge and technology advancing so quickly, you don’t have years to ‘get up to speed’. The secret, then, is identifying the need to learn, and then setting yourself to the task quickly and efficiently.

Learning is not the same thing as acquiring knowledge any more than data is the same as information. When you learn, your behaviour changes. As Peter Senge wrote in The Fifth Discipline, 1993:

  “Real learning gets to the heart of what it means to be human. Through learning we re-create ourselves. Through learning we become able to do something we never were able to do. Through learning we extend our capacity to create, to be part of the generative process of life. There is within each of us a deep hunger for this type of learning”.

Senge is right - there is a deep hunger for learning. It is painful for individuals to stand by and watch their organisation inhibit learning. It is frustrating when employees cannot apply what they know. It is discouraging when the organisation makes unnecessary mistakes. Standing by and watching this happen will damage people’s spirits. Creating a learning organisation can restore that spirit to ‘respirit’ the workplace.