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Culture of Learning and Competitiveness

Once, attending a class, the professor began his lecture by writing on the blackboard the following words:

  • Committing Errors
  • Copy
  • Ask
  • fun

At that time students, somewhat surprised, we doubt the intention of those statements. Once off, the professor began to explain the meaning and reason for those words.

Committing Errors

Frequently encountered in situations where you admit your mistakes is hard for fear of consequences: fear of ridicule, fear of punishment or retaliation, fear of being evaluated negatively, and so on.

We assume mistakes as failures but as learning stages (one mistake does not become a failure until you refuse to correct it).

Recognize errors will be aware of our expectations, values, biases and mental models. You must be constantly alert, since these factors determine our thoughts and our actions. One of the biggest barriers to learning is the difficulty of unlearning what was learned.


From childhood we have instilled the individual work style, instead of the value of teamwork. Our work will always be more effective and efficient by sharing knowledge and experiences with other partners, to learn and improve together every day.

The complexity of business, requires collaboration, innovation, involvement, communication. New advances in technology, working methods, successful strategies, ... in the era of market globalization, teamwork, monitoring and benchmarking technology are basic tools for competitiveness.


You must be willing to recognize our ignorance and our limitations, knowing that this is an essential requirement to develop our intellectual potential.


  • Create a climate of trust and improved relations with our employees.
  • Help us keep an open and constructive, with a culture of understanding our partners.


Some religious beliefs has led us to regard work as a divine punishment. Under this premise, it is hard for people to develop their full potential in performing their duties.

The motivation to replace taxation.

In organizations, the work must be a source of satisfaction of the people, enhancing their self-esteem, sense of belonging and opportunities for self-realization. It is necessary that the working conditions meet the necessary qualities to excite workers in the "what to do" and the "how."

Culture of Learning and Competitiveness

There are many definitions of organizational culture. Renau Menguzzato and define organizational culture as:

"set of values, beliefs, attitudes, expectations and mental models common to all or at least the vast majority of the members of an organization and act as implicit rules that influence their behavior."

Culture is usually implicit, tacit, invisible and informal. Organizational culture exists even though we have not defined, operates spontaneously although we are not aware of their existence or their influence.

But ... What is the influence of organizational culture on learning capacity and competitiveness of a company?.

Culture conditions the relationships between people, successful business strategies, any of the decisions, plans of action.

The culture determines the effectiveness, efficiency and effectiveness of each and every action within any organization.

Culture can contribute to cohesion or segregation, consistency or inconsistency, the motivation or the motivation, coordination or lack of coordination, ultimately, the success or failure.

Therefore can be said that culture is the most inclusive or more disintegration of any organization.

The culture of the vast majority of non encourages learning. When this occurs, it squanders the biggest and best resources available on the company: the potential of people. And this is precisely the biggest and best resources available because "the only source of sustained competitive advantage for an organization is its ability to learn sooner than the competition." Peter Senge.

Many companies seek to improve competitiveness by applying the latest fashion methodology they have seen in an adjacent:

  • Reengineering
  • Empowerment
  • Benchmarking
  • Just In Time
  • Management by Objectives
  • Process Management
  • Competence Management
  • Knowledge Management
  • Talent Management
  • so on.

Most of these projects fail miserably when faced with cultures rooted in hierarchy, obedience, fragmentation, short-term results, conservatism, individualism, lack of transparency and a long list of values, attitudes , beliefs, expectations and mental models that hinder organizational learning.

Recommendations to Management

Because of its importance, management culture should not rely on free will.

The organizational culture must be maintained as one of the most important elements of the organization, since it determines the remaining elements (vision, mission, values, policies, structure, strategies, processes, resources, etc.)..

But ... How to manage the culture of organizations

Although no reliable and standardized methodologies that allow us to tackle the cultural change process in a structured way, we can manage given culture at least the following reasons:

  • Culture (implicitly or explicitly) is defined by the founders and / or senior management, their attitude and daily example, with his leadership style and values that transcend all decisions.
  • Cultural change requires courage, determination and commitment of senior management. You can not delegate.
  • Changing the culture of an organization is a delicate, complex, slow and requires a tremendous effort and dedication of all staff ... however, the potential benefit surely outweighs all the disadvantages.
  • Organizational culture is influenced by internal factors (vision of the founders, the company's history, leadership style, level of training of employees, performance appraisal systems, pay systems, verbal and body language,. ..) as well as external factors (social, political, cultural and economic).
  • Culture must be consistent with company strategy, and all related internal and external factors.
  • Cultural change must come from within, we can not expect nor should we allow a foreign agent (client, consultant, supplier ...) shapes our culture.

No two organizations with identical cultures. However, it is possible to establish a set of common characteristics between those cultures that promote learning:

  • Address Leadership (developing a coherent culture and leading by example)
  • Guidance to clients (internal and external)
  • involvement and personal development
  • Reconciling the interests of the individual and the organization
  • Promoting creativity and innovation
  • Philosophy improvement in confidence (not seeking to blame for the problems, but causes and solutions)
  • Recognition of successes, failures rationality
  • Internal and external efficiently and effectively
  • Cooperation for competitiveness (coopetitividad) both internal (staff) and external (suppliers, customers and other partners)
  • Management based on data and facts
  • systemic vision (we see and understand our organizations not objects or machines, but as systems of interaction, as living organisms)

These features are including the eight principles of Total Quality Management established in the UNE-EN-ISO 9004:

  1. Customer Focus
  2. Leadership
  3. Involvement of the person
  4. Process Approach
  5. System approach to management
  6. Continuous Improvement
  7. Factual approach to decision making
  8. Mutually beneficial supplier

As described in the above rule: the successful use of the eight management principles by an organization will result in benefits to stakeholders, such as improvement in profitability, value creation and greater stability "

culture should be regarded as the foundation upon which is built to Total Quality. We design and build this foundation, so to ensure stability and consistency in the future development of our organizations.


As the years pass, I understand and appreciate more the message of that teacher. When me to lead a new group, start by explaining to members four simple rules to remember the importance of culture and learning coopetitividad:

  • makes mistakes
  • Copy
  • Question
  • Fun

© Domingo Rey Peteiro
Sinapsys Business Solutions