Patrick Bijman, chairman of SOL Nederland, saw a few years ago the latent need of society for the concept of 'learning', and two years ago set himself a gigantic, uncanny goal: SOL would again become the community where knowledge, experience and insights could be shared about increasing the learning capacity in people, teams, organizations and society as a whole.
An interview with a man with a long breath and a ditto vision.
Fifth discipline as a foundation
In the late 1990s, it was a landslide: Peter Senge wrote The Fifth Discipline, a groundbreaking book on creating a learning organization. A classic, which served as the foundation for many theories, methods and instruments, such as Lean, Agile, self-management, etc. Yet there are now few people who know, let alone apply the model of the learning organization, while it is precisely in this time It is extremely important that organizations increase the learning capacity of the organization. A thorn in the side for Patrick Bijman, president of the Society for Organizational Learning (SOL) in the Netherlands.
Gigantic creepy big target
Bijman, who has been affiliated with SOL Nederland since 2005, saw society's latent need for the concept of 'learning', and two years ago set himself a gigantic, uncanny goal: SOL would once again become the community where knowledge, experience and insights could be shared. are shared about increasing the learning capacity in people, teams, organizations and society as a whole.
He traveled across the country to select from his network a group of diverse and passionate professionals to give the necessary boost to the Society for Organizational Learning. “What I noticed was that the ideas were always good. But that the decisiveness was often limited. There was a need for action and continuity. A committed team that puts its weight behind it together.”
Struggle and Farewell
That sounds simple, but it certainly wasn't. “When we had just started cold with eight people, in February 2020, Corona started. While a starting team has to be together to give meaning to a common goal, we were talking to screens. That cost us a lot of energy. And in the meantime, two people have also stopped. The eight professionals brought together were all talented, passionate and intelligent people, but it didn't work as a group. In our pursuit of a shared vision, it turned out that their vision differed too much from that of the rest of the team. After the start-up period of six months, they therefore decided to go their own way.”
Quirky and diverse
After that, it took at least a year and a half before this Development Team was able to translate the joint vision into text, images, and a new name: Organization Learning Foundation, a new house style and a new website.
“Yes, that was sometimes difficult. That everything seemed to be going so slowly. We are all idiosyncratic professionals and we have very diverse fields of work, from commercial to government, from science to sales. So the sensemaking, jointly giving meaning to the goal and the way in which we want to put this into the world, that just takes time. But we are convinced that that is precisely what makes us such a good team. It is precisely this diversity that makes us learn to do the right things, in the right way. All views of all members are important, however divergent they may appear at first glance. We have learned to explore the differences, and then learn from them. We call it slowing down to speed up.”
When asked about the most important new insights that he himself has learned in the past period, Bijman answers with the term - Facilitating learning -. “I have experienced from action research that we ourselves have started at organizations that a learning organization is not created by focusing on learning itself. Firstly, the biggest challenge lies not in formal but rather informal learning. And in addition, you achieve the best learning results not by pulling or pushing, but by responding to the intrinsic need of every person to learn. And preferably together with others, this is a lot more effective. At its core, it is simply about attention and facilitation. Sincere attention to the person and his or her work environment. And subsequently properly facilitating the desired formal and informal learning. The focus is on the development of a more learning culture in which you work on sustainably strengthening the learning capacity of the organization.”
Plans for next year
The Development Team is working hard to breathe new life into the SOL Community. “We want to bring the model of the learning/living organization more to life. For example with practical examples, interviews, animations, short films. The model is complex. But if you make the complexity visible, it is no longer complicated. We will commit ourselves to that. We also work internationally to collect best practices when it comes to setting up a learning culture in organizations. We are also developing an online learning environment with blended learning programs for Learning Culture, Learning Leadership, Learning Practice Teams and Personal Mastery. And we are regularly called in by organizations for presentations, inspiration meetings and workshops. Ultimately, we want to move towards long-term processes in which we help organizations to increase the learning culture in their organization.”
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