Do You Want Adaptive Or Generative Learning In Your Procurement Team?

Posted 04/01/2017

“Through learning we re-perceive the world and our relationship to it ... This then, is the basic meaning of a 'learning organization' -an organization that is continuously expanding its capacity to create its future. 'Survival learning' or what is more often called 'adaptive learning' is important - indeed it is necessary. But for a learning organization, 'adaptive learning' must be joined by 'generative learning', learning that enhances our capacity to create”.

Peter Senge

How do you get your team to learn about category management? Do you want them to use adaptive or generative learning?

Knowing the answer to the above questions is fundamental when developing a procurement transformation programme? After all you have a choice whether you want help to:

  • Do the doing,

  • Learn how to do the doing better, or

  • Transform how you do what you do.

When developing a procurement learning journey it’s essential therefore that you understand the constraints of the learning strategy you’re employing.

Learning stage 1* – survival learning: Follow the process – rote learning and no innovation

Anyone can follow a process, or unthinkingly do what they’re told to do.

The challenge comes when there are variables that mean the process needs to be adapted to suit the circumstances. Just like a computer we can get caught in a “does not compute” loop -unable to make progress until someone provides an alternate process to follow that takes into account the new variables.

Learning stage 2* – adaptive learning: Understand how to use the process, and adaptation of the process

Here we learn to use the process, and also learn how to adapt it to suit the circumstances. Progress is made incrementally, and is also wholly based on past experience.

There’s certainly limited questioning of the underlying principles of the process, nor of the ‘way we do things around here’ – whether within procurement or the business more broadly.

Learning stage 3* – generative learning: Taking the process to the next level – innovation and step changes

In the third stage we move beyond following and adapting a process to being able to transform and create new processes and new ways of doing things. This is achieved through continual experimentation and feedback.

The outcome and benefits delivered from each of these stages is similarly exponential ie

Stage1: Rote learning: Diminishing returns over time

Stage 2: Adaptive learning: Maintaining and potentially increasing returns

Stage 3: Generative learning: Unlocking new value

Future Purchasing would welcome the opportunity to talk to you about developing a Procurement learning strategy that would unlock new value, and deliver real sustainable benefits to your organisation. For more please call Anna delmar.

*Based on work by Bateson, Wittrock and Senge.

Tagged by topic: Learning and Development

  by Alison Smith

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