Benchmarking your learning culture

by Jay Cross on March 12, 2008

I know not why, but Harvard Business Review online is free at the moment.

Sometimes, HBR makes things too complex to deal with. Not this time. The authors provide a list of sixty questions on your organizational culture. You compare your peoples’ answers to the printed benchmark numbers. Then you reflect on what it means. Slam dunk.

Rather than the all-too-frequent, level-headed, simplistic evaluation of training programs, the survey assesses the overall learning environment, a platform I call a Learnscape.

Is Yours a Learning Organization?

Using this assessment tool, companies can pinpoint areas where they need to foster knowledge sharing, idea development, learning from mistakes, and holistic thinking.

by David A. Garvin, Amy C. Edmondson, and Francesca Gino


This is an assessment questionnaire to administer within an organization, checking for:

  • Supportive learning environment, where it’s safe for workers to ask dumb questions or be in the minority; appreciate different points of view, which leads to understanding; be open to new ideas and novel approaches; and taking time for reflection.
  • Concrete learning processes, like the Army’s After Action Review
  • Leadership that reinforces learning. model the desired behavior

Workers fill out the survey of practices. Summary results are compared to benchmarks provided in the article. The differences are grist for conversation and self-reflection.

Here’s a sample of the survey questions:

Psychological Safety

In this unit, it is easy to speak up about what is on your mind.

  • If you make a mistake in this unit, it is often held against you.*
  • People in this unit are usually comfortable talking about problems and disagreements.
  • People in this unit are eager to share information about what does and doesn’t work.
  • Keeping your cards close to your vest is the best way to get ahead in this unit.*

This article reminds me of Marcia Connor’s article (and book), Creating a Learning Culture: Strategy, Technology, and Practice. Marcia is a visionary in the learning field. Among other things, she’s an Expert Blogger for Fast Company. Marcia’s work was an important catalyst to my thinking about informal learning.

Related:

Short online version of the HBR survey
Complete HBR survey online
Marcia Connor’s Learning Culture Audit

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