Your business plan is wrong. That doesn’t matter if you can learn fast enough.
The world is too complex for us to get things right first time. So what matters is the speed at which we adapt and learn.
|Image from wikimedia commons
The British historian Michael Howard wrote, on the subject of military doctrine,
“I am tempted to say that whatever doctrine the armed forces are working on now, they have got it wrong. I am also tempted to declare that it does not matter. What does matter is their ability to get it right quickly, when the moment arrives……When everybody starts wrong, the advantage goes to the side which can most quickly adjust itself to the new and unfamiliar environment and learn from its mistakes.”
In a complex and changing environment, it is the agile and the adaptive who survive. Everyone starts wrong, but the adaptive get righter quicker.
If Howard is right for business as well as for the Military, and that the advantage goes to the organisation that most quickly learns from its mistakes, then Knowledge Management and Organisational learning is a survival strategy.
An organisation must be confident enough to embark into the unknown, prepared to modify or even abandon processes, practices and plans, based on focused and high-quality learning. Knowledge Managers must attend to
- Increasing the clock speed” of organisational learning to increase your adaptation rate
- Removing the waste from the knowledge supply chain to make KM more lean and efficient
- Maximising signal to noise in knowledge transfer to make the learning signal clearer, and
- Bursting the knowledge bubbles to make sure the decision makers are open to new knowledge.
Colonel Ed Guthrie of the US Army used to liken it to the aerial dogfights in world war 1.
“In those days” he used to say, “It was about getting inside the other guy’s turning circle. That’s what would win you the engagement. Now it’s about getting inside the other guy’s learning circle.”
So whatever your business plan is, it’s wrong, and it does not matter. What does matter is your organisations ability (enabled by Knowledge Management) to quickly adjust itself to the new and unfamiliar environment and learn from its mistakes and successes.
Tags: Archive, learning from experience, strategy