OL-ECB Week: Joseph E. Bauer on Brave New World: The Need for Learning Organizations and Learning Cultures

Hi, I’m Joseph E. Bauer, the Strategic Director of Survey Research & Evaluation in the Statistics & Evaluation Center (SEC) for the American Cancer Society (ACS) in Atlanta, Georgia.  I am in my eleventh year as an internal evaluator.  I am the former Chair of the Organizational Learning and Evaluation Capacity Building (OL-ECB) TIG, and am currently on our Leadership Team.

Recently, Roberto Azevedo, the Director General of the World Trade Association cited studies showing that as much as 90% of U.S. manufacturing jobs recently lost were due to new technologies, innovations, or the result of improvement in efficiencies.  Many jobs world-wide are being eliminated by automation.  In fact, we are living in a time when the world is experiencing a fourth Industrial Revolution (a quick summary and other information: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SCGV1tNBoeU)

The amount and complexity of knowledge and skills that employees (and the organizations they work for) need – is increasing dramatically every day due to technology and globalization.  Simple repetitive tasks are being automated and online technologies are disrupting traditional business on a global scale (big data, technology, and the world of work are being dramatically transformed by the Internet of Things (IoT) (a brief introduction: https://www.wired.com/insights/2014/07/internet-things-will-disrupt-everything/)

Employees that survive automation and disruption will need to know more and do more.  Employees need to learn quickly.  They need to acquire new information, new skills, and develop new abilities and they need to do this in a way in which that learning will be retained and applied immediately to problem-solving.  Employees and the organizations they work for, must be learning and adapting continuously to survive and be successful.  Most organizations over the last 100 years have had ‘training cultures’- but that methodology does not allow a quick enough adaptation to the disruptions in a changing environment and in changing customer needs.  The work environment needs to support learning all the time and employees need to be learning all the time – hence the need for learning cultures becomes imperative.  Of course, this brave new world needs to evolve a culture of evaluation and build the necessary capacity to design, test, and improve processes and outcomes systematically.  Evaluation and an evaluative mindset will play a critical role in supporting and driving organizational learning, employee attitudes and behavior, and learning cultures.  To that end, the OL-ECB is creating an ECB Commons, mentioned earlier this week.

Rad Resources:  The Masie Center (http://masie.com), in Saratoga Springs, New York is a think tank, and a consultative and research center for organizational and employee learning that is focused on how organizations can support learning and knowledge within the workforce.  They coordinate a Learning Consortium, a coalition of 230 global organizations on the evolution of learning and collaboration strategies.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Organizational Learning and Evaluation Capacity Building (OL-ECB) Topical Interest Group Week. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our OL-ECB TIG members. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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