The analogy between business and the theory of evolution is very useful. A key concept in evolution is a species “fit”. This describes how well adapted the species is to its environment, and has a direct parallel with an organisation’s position in its industry.
The concept of a learning organisation looks beyond the static snapshot of today’s “fitness” to a dynamic picture of how fast the company can evolve. The key strategic indicator is the speed your company can change, relative to the speed the environment changes. Even if you missed some trends, you can recover if you can change faster than the environment is evolving. On the other hand, if the industry change will outpace you, you are doomed to extinction however strong your starting position. As Jack Welch put it, “When the rate of change outside exceeds the rate of change inside, the end is in sight.”
It is no accident that today’s most dynamic learning organisations are forged in the maelstrom of the hi-tech industry, where the rules of a whole industry can turn upside down within a year.
The challenge for the rest of us is how to adopt the best aspects of their learning cultures, since today the rate of change is accelerating in every industry.