Balancing Exploration and Exploitation in Organizational Learning

man at computerFinally, we come to a topic that sounds decidedly more involved than it really is, exploration and exploitation in organizational learning. That’s a mouthful isn’t it? Well, we’re talking pretty much about observing the people within your group as units, and getting to know their strengths and their weaknesses. It’s about exploiting their strengths to offset the weaknesses of others, and vice versa, to create a diffusive, dynamic interrelationship and flow between people during the training process.

It’s not nearly as complicated as it sounds. Exploration and exploitation in organizational learning all boils down to understanding people, and how people interact in a constructive environment. It’s about having a sense of corporate culture and where it plays into it as an influence from environment as well.

So, let’s look at a step by step case of using this concept when planning how to play out groups for organizational learning. I’m just going to use generalities and make this a quick overview, because I see probably doing more material on this in depth later on, if people are interested.

So first, you have your group of people who are to be trained. You know what the material is, the kind of talents that must be cultivated to learn and apply this new knowledge, and you yourself are at least summarily learned in the material going in.

We now use some basic training needs assessment procedures, which is the biggest component of this idea. We look at individuals through SWOT analysis, and determine what strengths and weaknesses they have both technically, mentally and personality-wise. We map the personalities of everyone involved, and note what assets link well with others, to complete rounded groups for training that function properly.

From here, we form groups, depending on how big the master set is, and how we want to manage this. Smaller groups are better for smaller organizations, while bigger groups work for bigger organizations. I know this sounds backwards, but believe me, it’s not.

Now, from here, we observe the dynamic through the first phase of our training, however we have these phases marked out. Our first major milestone. Now, we may shuffle groups when we see which groups are performing, on average, better than the rest. We then shift and shuffle to account for these complimenting features and flaws, and we redirect cross-group interchange to account for this as well.

We nip and tuck at this throughout the process, but we do it with a lot of care applied, because too much change, or too fast of a change can cause the whole thing to be a toss and turn disaster for the students, and the training will not reach them, due to their receptiveness being very much messed up.

So, this is something we apply with a steady hand, because it is very easy to do it wrong. But, don’t be afraid to use exploration and exploitation in organizational learning. It’s not hard to get right either. Just, remember what I said about the shifts and shuffles after analysis being gentle, alright? Seriously.

Jason Silberman
Jason is the former Lead Author & Editor of TrainingStation Blog
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