Thursday, May 21, 2009

Analogy learning.

When you use use analogy learning, you figure out how current situations or problems are similar to previous ones. Then you can improve planning by looking up a general plan for solving a range of similar problems, and applying some or all of the general plan to the specific problem you're facing. Recognizing patterns in the environment allows an organization to take advantage of them by means of strategy. If you can’t recognize a pattern, there’s no meaningful distinction between tactics and strategy. Organizations can gain competitive advantage by looking for the patterns that connect and inventing bridges that form new patterns not previously in effect.

Self-organizing entities learn by looking at their environment, finding underlying patterns and remembering the patterns they encounter. They then learn to recognize these patterns even when distorted or incomplete inputs are all that's available. With a big enough library of patterns acquired from direct experience, they can guess what to do with the unique, one-off patterns they encounter.

Complex adaptive systems also often have leverage points where a small perturbation can produce far-reaching results. A small vaccine injection can make a huge trillion-cell organism immune to measles. The challenge is how to find the points where a small intervention makes a big difference. To begin, look for common properties and mechanisms in various complex adaptive systems. There may be some hidden order, some common interaction pattern inherent in all these systems. One system may use building blocks from another system in new ways. For example, the internal combustion engine is composed of parts used in earlier technologies that have been recombined to lead to a whole new transportation system.

To transform organizations, you first need to understand the natural change processes that are embedded in all living systems. Once you have that understanding, you can design processes of organizational change accordingly and create human organizations that mirror life's adaptability, diversity, and creativity. Applying the systems view of life to organizational learning enables us to clarify the conditions under which learning and knowledge creation take place and to derive important guidelines for the management of today's knowledge-oriented organizations.

Transformation involves moving from one area of possibility into another area with an entirely different set of possibilities. In moving organizations forward, what’s important is the collective pattern of many simultaneous actions. This messy pattern of interdependent and interlinking events produces an exponential number of possibilities. Positive feedback leads to increasing order. Small failures get lost in the shuffle; the key is to avoid large failures. The capacity to tolerate small failures makes fertile ground for unguided learning as individual variation and imperfection leads to evolution. Some level of lack of understanding is OK - stuff happens. You don’t need to know exactly how a tomato cell works to be able to grow, eat, even improve tomatoes.

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