How can we connect individual learning with organizational learning?
How can organizations learn from other organizations?
How can we pass the 'transfer issue' from learning to working?
Three organizations bring each: an urgent and important actual organizational problem, issue or question. And, from each organization at least two participants take part. They are from different parts of the organization: one manager from the top and one professional from 'the floor'.
The participants of organization one and two work on the question of organization three; participants from organization one and three work at the issue of organization two et cetera. They work in the other organization. In this way very direct communication and involvement is possible. The participants can, for example, directly test their assumptions on the spot with existing employees. Employees will tell more frank and open what bothers them or what they think because the visiting participants are no part of their organization.
The second advantage is that the visiting participants experience the culture and atmosphere immediately, which is also important information. They have 'fresh eyes' to see striking patterns and behavior. The clue is that the participants from the other organizations have more allowance to ask questions nobody else asks, to cross borders, or to show the hidden cultural patterns. They are challenged to use their being outsiders.
The aim of the organization safari is to bring a change or movement and no report or analysis. That's why after testing assumptions and researching systemic patterns they finally have to do an intervention: an action that involves employees of the organization. This intervention should bring a change, or show a possible way of change.
One can think of:
• An organizational intervention: for instance change the way that meetings are held, in doing this immediately; be it shortening the time, or announce that the CEO will be present the next meetings.
• Creating new connections: for example arrange and facilitate a meeting at the spot, between management and working floor professionals, about an important issue. Or in this meeting share the experienced impressions of the visiting participants.
• Create together: for example make a theatre scene together with employees and management about their ideal organization, or about their hidden problems.
• Create transparency: for instance make a movie about hidden issues and show it in the organization.
• A physical intervention: for example remove a bookcase that divides a room in two sides and factions. This intervention makes for everyone visible how the organization is divided, and it shows at the same time the wanted change and connection.
The receiving organization can easily continue on the given change-scenario because the safari has opened up, has showed a new way.
The directness of the safari gives a substantial learning harvest. Next to this immediacy the learning in the safari has different levels. In being a team with two organizations team-working, communication and taking leadership are necessary. They do not learn 'about' it, but in direct action. The facilitators give feedback on the spot.
Secondly they learn on organizational level how the two other organizations work and organize themselves. In being in the other organization they see and experience this live.
Moreover they learn new methodologies they can use in their own working setting. Fast analysis, creativity and the courage to trial and error are competencies that are more and more necessary these days, and for sure in the next future.
This all together gives the participants broad and deep personal learning experiences.
1. Insert as much reality as you can
The participants experience the organization they visit directly by being in the reality of the third organization. Their 'fresh eyes' see more than the people of the organization itself. This is boosted by the given assignments.
2. Incorporate multiple perspectives
Participants from different organizations bring in different perspectives. Also, the difference in jobs and positions give more perspectives. The participants have to involve employees and other stakeholders. That gives them different perspectives from the organization as well. In being in the other organization, people already start automatically thinking about their own organization in comparing the issues they see, and the people and culture they meet.
3. Create a strong interconnection between 'action' and 'conceptualization'
There is no theory that needs to be proved. No theory 'interferes', or has to be learned. The participants experience continuous learning and conceptualizing. This provokes a learning attitude. It opens them up to the unknown, and makes them curious. The unknown is nearby and all pervasive. They learn that wherever you are, there is the possibility to learn: by asking questions, by learning about the situation, by wording and expressing your own response, by interpreting others and directly checking their interpretations.
4. Make the learning horizontal
The facilitators give as much responsibility as possible at the participants. They will only do some process-interventions if necessary. They give different methodologies, but no solutions. Sometimes they are sparring-partners.
The participants are coming from divers hierarchical layers and equally involved in the safari.
The participants are challenged to use their 'being an outsider'. They are allowed to intervene in the organization they visit. That gives them the possibility to go through boundaries or hierarchies. That is a behavioral example for the employees they meet. The aim is of course not to necessarily brake hierarchy. But when hierarchy is not effective, the safari can at least bring awareness.
Are you interested in joining an Organizational Safari? We bring companies together! Please contact An Kramer, email@example.com