Our metaphors: The power of nature

Developing this MOOC, we as development team have made a learning journey ourself. Coming at the end of this learning journey I, as editor of this MOOC, would like to share our most important insights with you.

Patrick Bijman, SOL Netherlands


First metaphor

 Blue Zones are magical: "Blue zones are defined areas where the population shares a specific lifestyle and living environment and where people live measurably longer" (Wikipedia).

We get our inspiration from these Blue Zone organizations. We don't expect you to become one of the five best performing organizations worldwide. But, inspired by Blue Zone organizations you can become a learning organization, based on a strong fundament of a Learning Culture.

Living organizations

In this learning journey we have seen a lot of examples, both from best practices as from our own research and interviews, that a Learning Culture really leads to magical results. Only 6% of all organizations worldwide become such a high performing learning organization, including a fully engaged workforce.

A Learning Culture really is the foundation for the development of LIVING ORGANIZATIONS. Organizations where staff are happy and productive. Where there is a lot of trust, freedom and confidence, but also shared responsibility. And where innovation/change is part of everyday business.

These living Organizations are fully in line with the rest of our metaphors based on nature. Let's look at them once more.


Stichting Organisatie Leren - SOL - plantje

Second metaphor

The Magic of a Learning Culture is in its simplicity. Create the right foundation for learning, and learning takes off, just by itself! It's magical!

It is just like agriculture. When you make sure the soil is of good quality you have a sustainable model for growth. 

Grass does not grow faster when you pull it!

Maybe the most important new insight we learned is NOT TO FOCUS ON LEARNING ITSELF (learning as a goal). Focus on the facilitation of learning (Learning Culture), and with the right tools and inspiration learning will take off just by itself! It's magical!

We see in practice there is a kind of contradiction. Organizations that consider themselves to be a learning organization almost never had the goal of becoming such a learning organization. They focussed on self management, empowerment, agility, innovation etc. By doing so, subconsciously they laid the foundation to become a learning organization. Simply because learning ultimately is the underlying most important factor for all tools, methods and programs!


Stichting Organisatie Leren - SOL - evolution

Third metaphor

Every human being is made to learn. Without learning there is no growth. And without growth there is no life. "I have been a student my entire life. I crave new information and enjoy exploring areas in which I have little or no knowledge. To me, constant learning is an essential part of life and I can’t imagine not having the drive to pursue it" (source).

Make learning visible

One of the most important elements defining the success or failure of the development of a Learning Culture is the FORMALISATION OF INFORMAL LEARNING. Making the invisible visible, the unheard heard and the unspoken center of our conversations. Doing so we not only make (informal) learning visible, but even more important, we create meaningful contacts and conversations.

Using SOCIAL LEARNING as a means to improve formal- and informal learning. We, as a development team, were pleasantly surprised about the power of learning with and from each other.


Fourth metaphor

When we started developing this Learning Journey we came up with the question: Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

Is it the the learning organization (chicken) that creates an engaged workforce (the egg)? Or is it the other way around?



It's not the chicken, nor the egg. It's the hen house!

Researching this question we discovered it's neither the chicken nor the egg that comes first. The magic is in building the proper hen house. It's all about creating the right context, THE PHYSICAL, SOCIAL AND MENTAL ENVIRONMENT (the Learning Culture) that provides the foundations for a sustainable "chicken & egg production". It's magical!

"In many ways there is a world to win in terms of employee engagement related directly to corporate agility. But it rarely happens spontaneously, you have to build it deliberately and its components have only a little to do with actual learning. It is about process, context and culture: learning culture." (Source).


Fifth metaphor

For developing, implementing and maintaining a culture of learning, Learning Leadership is crucial. 

For this we use the metaphor of the Learning Leader as gardener. Middle management, being responsible for developing, implementing and maintaining a meaningful working- and learning environment for their teams.

The gardener is even more important than we thought

Of course, the CEO and his or her management team are important. New possibilities come available, especially when there is a change of management.

But in this learning journey we learned the most important factor for success or failure of a Learning Culture is in the hands of middle/operational management. Without the support of LEARNING LEADERSHIP, initiatives to create a more learning culture are doomed to fail.


Stichting Organisatie Leren - SOL - Logo cfw

Change from Within

Based on these metaphors and our research we developed our "Change from Within model". A model to develop, implement and maintain a culture of learning in organizations, profit and non profit.


Focussed on the development of your long term LEARNING CAPACITY. With positive effects for staff, teams and the organization. Yes, even for society, because in organizations with a Learning Culture more conscious choices will be made. Resulting in more sustainable solutions, products and services.


So the most important message of this Learning Journey is to use the power of nature.

Just work on your LEARNING CAPACITY and let change come from within. It's magical!

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