Arie de Geus, former Head of Planning for Royal Dutch Shell, once said: "The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage." But who cares how fast an organization's learning is if innovation (the process) is itself unsustainable? The only thing more valuable than fast learning or innovation is innovation that is itself sustainable, regardless of speed.

Indeed, not all patterns of learning or innovation in organizations are sustainable. In fact, some forms of learning and innovation can actually undermine a firm's performance. What we need, then, are organizational learning and innovation environments that are optimized for high performance, but which are sustainable as well. How is this accomplished?

Patterns of learning and innovation in human social systems are sustainable (and cost effective) if they 1) tackle problem solving, in particular, and not just information retrieval, and 2) if the knowledge they produce is reliable (i.e., if when put into use, it actually helps people to adapt, take effective action, lower risk, and eliminate errors). Thus, the most effective KM solutions are those that target decision making in non-routine problematic situations, and which have the effect of helping to quality-control both knowledge and action taken on the basis of such knowledge.

For more information about any of our services contact Mark W. McElroy at (802) 785-2293, or by e-mail at

For more information about any of our services contact Mark W. McElroy at 802.785.2293, or by e-mail at

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