Tag Archives: GTD President

President Obama and his “argument-based organization as learning organization” – insight from David Brooks

I intentionally avoid political topics and themes on this blog.  I realize that in this very volatile, divided era, once a name or a postition is named, some cheer, others condemn, and people want to argue.  (See my earlier post on The Argument Culture, and how Deborah Tannen predicted the coming argument wars).

But this was too good to pass up.  Whether you agree with the assessment or not, it provides for serious thought and discussion regarding leadership and decision making.  The thought comes from David Brooks, one of the conservative columnists for the New York Times.  In his column The Analytic Mode, December 3, 2009, he reflects on President Obama’s approach to his Afghanistan strategy and troop decision.  This is what he wrote:

The advantage of the Obama governing style is that his argument-based organization is a learning organization. Amid the torrent of memos and evidence and dispute, the Obama administration is able to adjust and respond more quickly than, say, the Bush administration ever did.

Brooks pictures the Obama approach as that of a learning organization.  Here’s the definition (from Wikipedia): A Learning Organization is the term given to a company that facilitates the learning of its members and continuously transforms itself.

Though there are five identified traits of a learning organization — Systems Thinking, Personal Mastery, Mental Models, Shared Vision, and Team Learning — I think we can identify the  following as critical to a learning organization’s success as a learning organization.  A learning organization is an organization where the following is true:

1)            Teaching and learning are at the center of the organization.
2)            Everyone, from the leaders throughout the organization, values learning.
3)            Disagreement and dissent are valued, because if there is no disagreement, learning does not happen.  Instead, perpetuating frozen, possibly wrong, viewpoints becomes dominant – and the organization finds itself left behind in a hurry.

This the second time that an author has put modern day business labels on President Obama’s approach to governing.  (at least, the second one that I am aware of).  The earlier was an author calling President Obama our first GTD President.  (see my post here).  I’m a fan of the learning organization approach, and Brook’s observation gives me hope.