Management in the Knowledge Economy

The July-August 2008 issue of Harvard Business Review features a great article by Amy C. Edmondson entitled The Competitive Imperative of Learning.

In this article she discusses the importance of fostering an environment where learning is valued more than effeciency and argues that although it may not yield immediate results that it promotes success over an extended period of time. 

 A very useful chart shows that in the “execution as efficiency” model leaders provide the answers and employees follow directions. New work processes are developed infrequently and implementing change is a huge undertaking. Problem solving is rarely required and judgement is not expected.

In the “execution as learning” model leaders set direction and articulate the mission and employees discover answers. Work processes keep developing and small changes, experiments and improvements, are a way of life. Problem solving is constantly needed, so valuable information is provided to guide employees’ judgement.

As I read the article I couldn’t help but think how important the learning mindset is in the library. A library that values the “execution as learining” model of management will have much more room to be innovative and present patrons with new models of service and technology. We can’t be afraid to try new things and make mistakes because that is the only way we can learn what works and what doesn’t.  In my current situation I feel exactly how the “execution-as-efficiency” model can stifle the creativity and innovative ideas of employees. Without the support and encouragement of management at all levels, it seems like employees get frustrated and stop caring. In a work environment that depends on lifelong learning, such as the library, it seems like a death wish to employ the “execution as efficiency” model, yet I’ve worked in several libraries where this attitude was a prevalent one. I can only hope that as creativity and innovation continues to grow as valuable job skills, that directors and managers will recognize the importance of a management technique that supports it.


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