Becoming an Open organization- HEROIC blog series

Becoming an Open Organization

OPEN, LEARNING ORGANIZATIONS enable the emergence of motivated communities where members continuously coach each other, transform and develop themselves. They are trust-based ecosystems where people feel comfortable to listen to and learn from each other.

The Covid crisis in the spring forced many of us to scramble to reinvent the way we do business.  In June, together with Sekaten, we talked to 160 business people from around the world to better understand what they had learned from the crisis, how confident they were that they could continue to learn and adapt and what insights they had gathered about the changes needed in the way we do business.
Six systemic themes emerged from this dialogue, which we organized under the acronym ‘HEROIC’ or ‘Human, Empathetic, Role Model, Open, Innovation and Courage’.  Today, I am going to discuss the fourth – being open.

In thinking about this blog, I came across a Harvard Business review article on creating a learning environment that begins as follows:  “Technology is disrupting every industry and area of life, and work is no exception…. As a result, there is now a premium on … the desire and ability to quickly grow and adapt one’s skill set to remain employable.”  (Chamorro-Premuzic and Bersin, 2018)*.  It occurred to me that by substituting ‘Covid 19’ for the word ‘technology’, one would have an almost perfect description of the past 7 months’ experience. The Covid crisis has forced all of us to master new skills, both technical and other, that many of us had never even considered before.  It has required us to listen to and learn from each other in a way we have never before experienced.

The value of this newfound openness to learning was not lost on our 160 participants.  They clearly see the value of an open, learning environment going forward.  The main themes that emerged were the following:

  • Ask rather than Tell  Good at engaging, co-creating, and dialoguing on a large scale, learning organizations naturally foster coaching culture. An “ask rather than tell” style enables meaningful dialogues supporting self-development where people coach others with love and respect.


  • Create a Learning Community  Learning organizations establish a feedback culture and have a great capacity to share knowledge at all levels of the organization. Becoming a living learning community, they enable people to help each other to constantly grow and adapt.


  • Encourage Personal Development   Learning organizations invest in self-awareness and self-improvement. These are the pillars of a collective awareness that organizations do not transform, people do.

The value of a learning environment is not a new concept, but at the time the HBS article was written, only about 10% of companies had achieved this (Chamorro-Premuzic and Bersin).  However, the Covid Crisis has demonstrated not only the value of an open, learning environment but also how quickly this environment can be fostered when there is a need.   It has forced us to listen to each other more carefully and to learn from each other.  And that is something to take with us into the post-Covid era.

In my next blog, I will discuss the fifth theme of HEROIC organizations – being Innovative.

If you would like to learn more about HEROIC organizations and our study, please click on this link to download a copy of the report: The HEROIC REPORT


* Chamorro-Premuzic, T. & Bersin, J. (2018).  4 Ways to Create a Learning Culture on Your Team. Harvard Business Review, July, 12.


A blog series by Anne Clark