I commented on the concept of a learning company in my posts on Lady Gaga and David Bowie recently. The idea of a learning company is a company which learns faster than its competitors and speed of new product / service delivery is vital in today’s business world. Many academics, such as Peter Senge, Chris Argyris and Peter Senge have commented on this idea, which Britney Spears unwittingly stumbled upon in her classic hit “Oops, I did it again”. Let’s see Ms Spears in action:
In the context of business, “oops I did it again” refers to the tendency of businesses to repeat themselves, sometimes in the face of compelling evidence telling them to change course. Organisational learning can mean several things:
Single loop learning – Where we keep existing values and introduce new behaviours – this is often dubbed ‘continuous improvement’, where we look for better ways to do existing things.
Double loop learning – A fundamental reassessment of the way we operate – often more radical and therefore even more difficult.
Companies find it intensely difficult to institute learning at an organisation wide level, be it single or double loop learning. Marks and Spencer nearly went out of business through having such a strong culture that it did not learn from its customers. Manifestations of this included a refusal to accept credit card payments for many years and their disastrous initial expansion into Europe. On the other hand, Toyota have based much of their growth in recent years on behaving as an organisation that learns, alongside other approaches such as lean thinking. This has given them an incredible edge compared with their competitors. I have just come back from giving a keynote on this very topic at the 7th International HR Leadership Conference in Athens on this topic, which is central to a turnaround in the way in which businesses operate in the new world order. I also met Evan Davis from the BBC programme Dragons’ Den last week, where we discussed the need for some new thinking if we are to create a sustainable turnaround in the economy and I shall post separately on this topic soon.
Lessons from Britney: Don’t repeat yourself. Learn and adapt.
I have scoured Britney Spears back catalogue for other songs that have a business leadership lesson in them and, frankly, I have failed. “My perogative”, “Everytime”, “Toxic” – not one transferable business lesson, unless someone can spot something I have missed. So, I have no particular reason for including the video of “Baby one more time”, except for its own value!
p.s. My new book ‘Punk Rock People Management – A no-nonsense guide to hiring, inspiring and firing staff’ is available FREE via the Punk Rock People Management webpage. A print and e-book version are also available at PUNK PM. Britney Spears gets a mention as an honorary punk rocker in the book, even though she is not one.
Finally, let’s hear a Louis Armstrong mashup of Britney’s masterpiece: