Secret Ingredients for Creating Organizational Value

There are profound ways in which life has changed over the past fifty-something years that I have been alive that got me thinking about the role that learning needs to play in creating organizational value. For example, some of the things that I have had to learn about that have greatly impacted my life include laptop computers, smart cell phones, global positioning systems, automatic teller machines networked to computers, birth control pills, on-line shopping and ecommerce, electric cars, high-speed video streaming made possible by fiber optic cables, photovoltaic solar energy, magnetic resonance imaging, Internet search engines, DVD and BlueRay with large-screen TV for home theater experiences, iPOD, tablets, and testing for genetic diseases based on DNA sequencing results. If learning has helped to impact my personal life in valuable ways, then there have got to be some secret ingredients for creating organizational value that can be gleaned from learning.

According to Google (https://www.google.com/?gws_rd=ssl#q=definition+of+value), learning is ‘the acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, study, or being taught.’ Focusing on the acquisition of knowledge, you need critical thinking to acquire knowledge even though you can think without acquiring knowledge. The motivation for learning is to acquire knowledge or a new skill that will help you advance in your chosen vocation, help you pursue a passion, or help you address an important problem. Albert Einstein said, ‘We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.’ This quotation suggests that problems are the result of inadequate thinking or frame of mind or paradigm. Therefore, new thinking is needed to address problems, and new thinking applied to a problem is one way to describe learning.

Organizational value is about contributing to the goals of an organization. Michael Wilkinson defines goals as ‘broad, long-term aims that define fulfillment of the mission’ (see page 247 in ‘The Executive Guide to Facilitating Strategy,’ http://www.amazon.com/The-Executive-Guide-Facilitating-Strategy/dp/0972245812). Goals, therefore, set the direction that the organization is headed. The challenge or problem is how to get to that destination. As we learned from Albert Einstein above, new thinking is needed to address problems. Since new thinking is one way to describe learning, then learning is key to creating organizational value.

Let’s consider how new thinking comes from learning. New thinking often leaves us feeling vulnerable because we have to admit we don’t know something. New thinking does not have to leave us feeling vulnerable if we are able to focus on being open to new paradigms and the opportunity to learn something new which helps us develop as contributing human beings. Getting over this vulnerability is easiest when we are working on something that we are passionate about. Learning to address a goal comes in different forms. For example, if you can tie what needs to be done to contribute to the goal to your passion, then the needed learning comes easy although you may still need collaboration if you do not have the needed expertise or perspective. Alternatively, if the goal is complex or big enough that you don’t know where to begin, then learning through and with others via collaboration is needed. Finally, if you have the expertise to address the goal but not the passion, then you will likely need to collaborate with someone who has the passion and energy.

Let’s first look at the case where there is alignment between the organization’s goal(s) and an individual’s passion. Sir Ken Robinson has a passion for creating an education system that will result in people making the best use of their talents (see http://www.ted.com/talks/sir_ken_robinson_bring_on_the_revolution#t-237172). Robinson describes passion as something that excites our spirit and our energy. Robinson sees the current education system as an industrial model based on linearity, standardization, and batching people. Robinson calls for a new model of education that focuses on creating the conditions for human beings to flourish and is capable of being customized to current circumstances and personalized to the people being taught. Robinson believes that if highly talented teachers collaborate with highly talented Internet solution providers that this new model for education can be created and implemented. This is an innovative idea for education made possible by deep thinking on the part of Sir Ken Robinson thanks to his passion for the topic. Also noteworthy is the collaboration called for in order to design and implement an approach to put the new innovative model of education into practice. Imagine putting Sir Ken Robinson as the lead of a task force to design and implement a new model for education – there would be no stopping him with his passion!

Now let’s look at the case of a goal being complex or big enough that you don’t know where to begin. Michael Porter has presented the concept of ‘shared value’ (see http://www.ted.com/talks/michael_porter_why_business_can_be_good_at_solving_social_problems?language=en#t-970708) to for-profit organizations which is about creating both social value and economic value simultaneously. However, creating social value is about tackling complex problems such as poor nutrition, obesity, inadequate access to fresh water, deforestation, climate change, reducing energy use, and so on. Porter talks about our tendency to deal with these complex and big social problems using government and non-profit organizations, however, monetary resources are always lacking. Porter points out that all wealth is created by business and that business models are about scaling solutions to meet needs. Business models are how wealth is generated by business. Porter offers the solution that businesses pursue creating social and economic value simultaneously so that scalable solutions to social problems can be identified and implemented by those with the resources to do so. Porter goes on to say that the businesses that have been successful in this endeavor are those that have formed partnerships to better understand the social problems so they can develop lasting solutions that meet social needs while not adding to other social problems.

Finally, let’s look at the case of having the expertise to address a goal but not the passion. This situation is very often the challenge of corporate change initiatives in which the employees who need to change are not the ones who have passion for the change. An example of this situation is a corporation that set the goal to be a recognized sustainable development leader in their sector. In this situation, the majority of the employees had the expertise to address the goal but not the passion. The corporation put together a council of representatives from across the organization who had passion for or at least a high interest for the topic of sustainable development. The council developed a strategy and an employee education program to be able to pursue the strategy. Within three years, the corporation had implemented a number of new sustainability programs that contributed million of dollars in cost savings and new revenues.

Creating organizational value is about contributing to the goals of an organization. Because an organization’s goals set the direction for the organization, contributing to this desired future takes learning which comes from new thinking. New thinking to address a goal depends on the nature of the goal (e.g., whether it is complex or not), the nature of the expertise and experience of those trying to address the goal, and the passion of those towards addressing the goal. The secret ingredients for creating organizational value are a team leader with passion for the organization’s goals, team members with the expertise and experience that can generate a wide range of tactics to achieve the goal, and the right collaborators for proper selection and implementation of the best tactics to achieve the goal. If you would like to learn more about creating organizational value, contact Valerie Patrick at Fulcrum Connection LLC (412-742-9675 or valerie.patrick@fulcrumconnection.com).

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