Although my book, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Lean: Lessons from the Road, is very much about lean, I particularly enjoy finding lessons on lean from books that having nothing to do with lean. I’ve already shared some lessons from two books, The Tipping Point and Death by Meeting. Here’s another book, Outlearning the Wolves.
How to create a Learning Organization, as taught by a visionary flock of sheep
Outlearning the Wolves teaches the underpinnings of a Leaning Organization in a fun, short fairly tale format. The book tells of a flock of sheep that learned to de-fend itself from Wolves by inculcating learning practices. The sheep had for many years accepted their fate on the food chain as wolves would come in to their pen and snatch sheep after sheep. Eventually, one visionary sheep challenged the assumption that sheep are nothing more than meals for wolves and that they can in fact learn to prevent the wolves from attacking. Like many visionaries, challenging mental models proves to be difficult. Eventually though, some more sheep begin to embrace the vision. This small group of first movers begins by understanding the nature of wolf attacks and the possible means by which the wolves are getting into their fenced area. They discover that the wolves are getting under the fence by wading through a creek. The number of believers now grows and ideas on how to prevent the wolves from getting under the fence abound. The sheep implement some of these ideas that results in no additional wolf attacks.
As with any competition, the wolves learn to adapt and find new ways into the pen, but the flock is now a full-fledged learning organization that blunt any new strategies by the wolves. Some of the key principles of a learning organization are taught in this tale. First, no learning can take place without a compelling vision being put forth. Next, in order to achieve that vision, new practices and techniques must be adopted. These new means can only be invented if an organization is willing to question current beliefs and assumptions. The sheep had to get past their assumptions that they powerless vis-a-vis the wolves. Once an organization is willing to try new approaches, the quality of thought for those ideas is critical. How organizations solicit input and test new ideas is important in this process. Outlearning the Wolves is a great book for a team or department to reflect on their learning abilities. It’s a quick and fun book that provides many thought provoking perspectives.
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