By Chris Chittenden

"In times of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The "learned" usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists."

... author unknown

In today’s rapidly changing world, we are constantly confronted with the need to learn new skills and ways of being to succeed. It is no longer valid for us to simply rely on the education that we obtain through our schools and universities, we must develop our learning skills and continue to effectively utilise them in our personal and professional life.

Learning is seen as so fundamental to business success that business gurus have coined the term "learning organisation". What is a "learning organisation"? David Garvin in the August 1993 Harvard Business Review defines it as "an organisation skilled at creating, acquiring, and transferring knowledge, and at modifying its behaviour to reflect new knowledge and insights."

When all is said and done, an organisation is simply a group of people working with a common purpose, so for an organisation to become a "learning organisation", it is the people within that organisation who must be effective learners. The question is how can this be achieved?

Have you ever wondered, why it is that as children we are like sponges? In the first five years of life, we soak up ideas and learn new skills at a remarkable rate. What happens? Where does this ability, that seems so innate, go as we get older?

We claim that our ability to learn is irrevocably linked to the coherence between our body, our language and our mood. This coherence is one of the basic claims of our work.

Through their research, The Newfield Group have identified what they term "The Enemies of Learning". These are obstacles to our ability to learn and can be broken down into three broad groups - linguistic obstacles, emotional obstacles and generic obstacles.

Linguistic obstacles involve the assessments that we make about ourselves and how we learn. "I already know" ,"I cannot learn" and "Learning will make no difference to me" are examples that fall into this group.

Emotional obstacles are those that get in the way of our learning because of our mood or emotional state. This would include arrogance, confusion, resignation and fear.

Generic obstacles are barriers such as cognitive blindness - "you don’t know that you don’t know", and not allocating time to learn.

All of these obstacles can be overcome and awareness is the first step in that process. To create a "learning organisation", we must first remove the emotional and linguistic barriers that impair the individual’s learning. Individual behaviour is conditioned by the system in which it takes place and that system is generated and transformed by the individuals within that system. Therefore to become a "learning organisation", we must create an organisational mood of ambition and trust.

Through our understanding of the coherence of language, mood and body, we are able to help individuals break through these obstacles to become far more effective learners and hence far more effective employees and employers.

We are also able to transform organisational leaders so that they can create the organisational mood that fosters learning and leads to greater business success.

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© 1996 Chris Chittenden