In our personal life, experience is
often the best teacher. Not so in corporate life. After a major
event- a product failure, a downsizing crisis, or a merger, many
companies stumble along, oblivious to the lessons of the past.
Mistakes get repeated.
A useful tool in this context is the
learning history, a written narrative of a company's recent critical
event, nearly all of it presented in two columns. In one column,
relevant episodes are described by the people who took part in them,
were affected by them, or observed them. In the other, learning
historians - trained outsiders and knowledgeable insiders- identify
recurrent themes in the narrative, pose questions, and raise "undiscussable"
issues. The learning history forms the basis for group discussions,
both for those involved in the event and for others who also might
learn from it. This tool based on the ancient practice of community
story telling can build trust, raise important issues and transfer
knowledge from one part of a company to another.