Saturday, 28 April 2007

Is Ignorance Bliss? 5-On Organisational Learning

The Management Experiences

The games industry is about delivering a constant stream of new game-play experiences for players. (Analogous to blogging and ‘reading experiences I guess) Consequently my management experience has been deeply involved with the process of new product development. This is one of the key processes that links ‘out there’ to ‘in here’ and creates a cycle of doing something and learning from it or not as the case may be. Three generic management experiences associated with new product development stand out as containing transferable learning potential.


The patterns revealed in the lessons of change are more easily spotted when the same processes are repeated frequently and quickly. Practice supports learning.

Pay to play games companies (there are 15 in the UK alone) can complete up to 50 projects a year. The design to market cycle is very fast. From ‘marker board’ to ‘consumer experience’ can take as little as 12 weeks. This results in the opportunity for ‘accelerated’ learning through practice. Process ‘patterns’ that show what went right or wrong quickly emerge.


People shouldn’t be simply classified as ‘those that want to learn’ and ‘those that don’t want to learn’. The same people operate in modes when they are open to learning and when they are closed to learning.

When game designers and marketers have a run of success or failure this affects what they pay attention to and ignore about changes in their environment. Invariably it takes a dramatic surprise and a threat to cause them to re-evaluate their beliefs about their theories for success.Further light is shed upon why this happens in Diane L. Coutu’s interview with Edgar H Schein to be found in the March 2002 edition of the Harvard Business Review where he comments.

'Learning only happens when survival anxiety is greater than learning anxiety…you can increase the survival anxiety by threatening people…or you can decrease the learning anxiety by creating a safer environment for unlearning and learning'

Going on to say:

“The evidence is mounting that real change does not begin until the organisation experiences some real threat of pain that in some way dashes its expectations or hopes.”


Ignorance and Power are a performance inhibiting combination when exhibited simultaneously by people in organisations

The commercial pressure to design the most appealing products means that there is great kudos and personal reward to be gained for seeming to ‘know’ exactly what customers want. Organisations can be seen to exist in a ‘jungle’ of product performance data, anecdotal customer and consumer information, and commissioned market intelligence with a vast diversity of meaning, and this ‘jungle’ is filled with animals that want to be undisputed ‘Organisational kings of meaning’

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