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{Excerpt} The gulf between the ideal type of a learning organization and the state of affairs in typical bilateral and multilateral development agencies remains huge. Defining roadblocks, however numerous they may be, is half the battle to removing them—it might make them part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

Organizational learning is collective learning by individuals, and the fundamental phenomena of individual learning apply to organizations. However, organizational learning has distinctive characteristics concerning what is learned, how it is learned, and the adjustments needed to enhance learning. These owe to the fact that an organization is, by general definition, a collective whose individual constituents work to achieve a common goal from discrete operating and supporting units. Practices bring different perspectives and cultures to bear and shape data, information, and knowledge flows. Political considerations are the most serious impediment to becoming a learning organization. However, by understanding more fully what obstacles to learning can exist in a complex organization in a complex environment, one can circumscribe the problem space and create enabling environments for a more positive future. Such environments would facilitate self-organization, exploration of the space of possibilities, generative feedback, emergence, and coevolution.They would create an explanatory framework and facilitate action.


Suggested Citation

Serrat, O. (2010). Overcoming roadblocks to learning. Washington, DC: Asian Development Bank.

Required Publisher's Statement

This article was first published by the Asian Development Bank (