The reason why we are concerned with learning in organizations versus individual learning is based on the premise that in transiting from a carbon-based to an alternative energy-based economy, the most complex problems among a great diversity of stakeholders need to be addressed. If we do not learn how to work in teams, we will not be able to achieve this level of environmental mastery.

The second condition, besides cooperative competency, is transparency. As long as we teach and learn in opaque systems, such as learning management systems (LMS) that present themselves to learners as black-boxes (this means that actual learning processes are hidden from learners), social agents are excluded from autonomously contributing to the design of future social systems. A black-box hides the logic of the learning process from learners. In a worst-case scenario, learners are anonymously evaluated by learning analytics to achieve goals for which they have no owership.

What we need instead is a so-called white-box approach. This means that learning processes are visible to both the designers and recipients of learning programs. Ideally, their roles overlap since there needs to be an agreement on the purpose of learning outcomes and the fairness of success measures.

Economically, we are currently witnessing the vulnerability of global supply chains in the most dramatic manner, across nations and continents. This means that no matter what and how we produce goods and services, we cannot escape the need to cooperatively create sustainable social systems. Mere negotiating between different interest- and status groups, like in the past, won‘t suffice anymore since we cannot afford to skip the social and environmental cost of carbon emissions by simply ignoring them. We cannot pretend that carbon emissions are not part of economic activity when, in fact, our collective survival and shared wealth depends on healthy and diverse ecosystems.

In order to bridge the gap between interest groups, we need to start creating shared realities. It is the opposite what current social networks do. We need to find common purpose, renew and redefine social contracts, conduct research, and develop solutions together. To support this endeavor, a new generation of social networks needs to be developed. Let me call construct such as Facebook the old-type social network (OTSN). It is based on exploiting user data to generate advertising revenue at the cost of psychological damage and harm to society. Users are guinea pigs to the algorithms of OTSN. A new type of social network (NTSN) would follow the outlined principles of new organizational learning. Algorithms would be transparent, codesigned by users, and the purpose of interaction would be the construction of new knowledge and solutions for society and the world at large.

For these reasons I think very little of most existing education systems, with few exceptions. We need to engage and develop newly emerging professional fields such as Learning Design and collaborative social construction (with a great colleague of mine we call it ‚social making‘). It requires a new type of creative and open mindset. Foremost, it requires the ability to empathize with others. If reseachers can‘t empathize, they lack the qualitative research requirements to gain deep insights into the development of new social systems for the people they serve. Besides time, empathy (both privately and professionally) is our greatest good since we can not learn compassion and identifying with others by attending a course or a lesson. The ability to empathize with others is a process of lifelong learning: if it hasn‘t grown in the heart, it won‘t be able to reach the mind.

In conclusion, new learning in organizations builds on empathy, transparency, superior analytical skills to conceptualize systemic interactions across various systems and teamwork. In the think tanks and groups that I‘m working in, we are formulating and creating the conditions for this next generation of learning experiences.


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