Continuous learning in the era of cloud

In the words of Thomas Huxley “Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.” Powerful words indeed. The evolution of IT keeps on “marching on” and we have to keep pace in the knowledge race. In short, “Always Be Learning!”

The era of cloud requires a new commitment to knowledge acquisition. The world of cloud is broad, encompassing infrastructure, application architecture, solution management and focus areas including data/analytics and DevOps. For organizations to be successful in cloud, they need a commitment to training and a “learning organization” culture.

So what is a learning organization? Gareth Jones (one of the world’s leading experts on organizational changes and learning theory) sums up the learning organization as “an organization that purposefully designs and constructs its structure, culture, and strategy so as to enhance and maximize the potential for organizational learning to take place.”[1] Peter Senge (author of “The Learning Organization” and noted MIT professor) identified 5 key characteristics of a learning organization2:

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Systems thinking – Understand the holistic and interrelated nature of organizations and associated dynamics
Personal mastery – Empowering employees to develop proficiencies and to support lifelong learning
Mental models – Develop the models to enable us to understand context, understand outcomes, and frame actions
Building shared vision – Provide a common approach and vision for framing problems and opportunities
Team learning – Build on mastery and shared vision to create an organizational approach for learning and executing actions and extending organizational competence
Let me relate these to the role of an IBM Cloud Advisor (CA), a new function to support our clients’ journeys to the cloud. The development and evolution of CAs in IBM meant we had to adopt a learning organization approach. Let’s revisit the 5 characteristics and see how we have implemented them in the Cloud Advisor organization.

Systems thinking – We use reference architectures (such as the Cloud Computing Reference Architecture), methods (such as IBM Unified Method Framework) and tools (such as IBM Bluemix) to provide the CAs a broad view of the linkages in the cloud ecosystem
Personal mastery – We have a program for Elite CAs to give them the opportunity to specialize in specific business/industry or technical areas
Mental models – CAs provide input into white papers, product development planning, and reference architectures to support models, technologies and methods
Building shared vision – Through social media tools and web conferences, we are building a shared vision to support cloud engagements and organizational development
Team learning – And, perhaps most importantly, we have a community that “learns together” via direct interactions with each other
We continue to learn. We believe that the way we approach creating a learning culture has resonance for our clients as well, enabling higher organizational competency with cloud technologies and addressing the two most critical areas in implementing cloud—resource/skill issues and architecture/design. By adopting a learning culture similar to the IBM CA model, organizations can more rapidly address these challenges.

Leonardo Da Vinci said, “Learning never exhausts the mind”. In other words — Always Be Learning! This is our mantra in the CA community. Join us for the next few weeks as we take a closer look at developing a learning organization approach in the era of cloud.

Peter Senge and the learning organization

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