Sixteen Patterns of the Learning Organization

Organizational learning is NOT random. If you do not intend it, it just NEVER HAPPENS.

To really encourage organizational learning, we must engage in 16 often-difficult learning patterns. THE CULTURE GAME book describes how to do this: by gaming the work. It is critical to design and implement the work around specific good-game mechanics, as described by Jane McGonigal in her book REALITY IS BROKEN.

THE CULTURE GAME describes a 3-part strategy for creating more business agility and learning in your organization. That 3-part strategy is:

  • Game the Work
  • Implement the 16 Tribal Learning Patterns
  • Socialize them with Triads

Let’s look at each in turn:

Game the Work. Work is a game. You are not working, you are playing. Usually, the work is poorly structured and does not have good-game dynamics built in. You can change that. Game the work. By deliberately gaming the work, you obtain a double-barreled win. This is because you eliminate bad game mechanics, and replace them with fun and enjoyable, good-game mechanics. You win huge by paying attention to this.

Implement the 16 Tribal Learning Practices. These are distilled and extracted from Agile software development. These are the behavioral patterns of the best teams. The best teams are small learning organizations. By doing what these teams are doing, you become a learning organization. It’s that simple.

Socialize with Triads. In your company, you can either make moves, or die a slow death waiting for someone else to do so. THE CULTURE GAME book explains how to apply the triad structures described by Dave Logan and others in the book TRIBAL LEADERSHIP. Triad are an essential aspect of spreading ideas and memes throughout your company.

OK. Now let’s run down the 16 Tribal Learning patterns from THE CULTURE GAME in some detail…

The Tribal Learning Patterns from THE CULTURE GAME:

Chapter 7: Be Purposeful. Without a clear purpose, you group cannot focus. You need one.

Chapter 8: Facilitate Your Meetings. Agile meetings are facilitated. We must do the same.

Chapter 9: Examine Your Norms. Nothing is beyond inspection. We must play serious.

Chapter 10: Be Punctual. Punctuality associates with Respect, Commitment, Focus.

Chapter 11: Structure Your Interactions. Real-time negotiation is over-rated. Agree in advance.

Chapter 12: Announce Your Intent. No one can follow when you do not state what you are doing. Tell people exactly what you plan to do.

Chapter 13: Game Your Meetings. Game mechanics govern engagement. Eliminate randomness in your meetings and level up

Chapter 14: Conduct Frequent Experiments. All learning is experimentation and all experimentation is play. Suspend disbelief and learn by experimenting.

Chapter 15: Manage Visually. Out of sight out of mind. Seeing is believing.

Chapter 16: Inspect Frequently. Iterate and inspect. When chaos comes, do this more often.

Chapter 17: Get Coached. The observer can see things you cannot. Coach is in it, not of it.

Chapter 18: Manage Your Boundaries. Good fences make good neighbors. Mend your fences.

Chapter 19: Socialize Books. Learning is at the root of greatness. Spread books & ideas.

Chapter 20: Pay Explicit Attention. We cannot change what we do not acknowledge. Attention is a scarce resource, that is why we call it “paying” attention. Zoom in.

Chapter 21: Open The Space. Closed space is space where we “don’t go there”. Open the space to discover what is going on, encourage engagement, and get the best idea on the table, regardless of source.

Chapter 22: Be Playful: Play is associated with joy and learning. Figure this out and you are on your way to more business agility and a much more adaptive organization.


Organizational learning is at the root of group greatness. Agile software teams have conquered the problem of how to do this. There are at least 16 core patterns of organizational learning. We call them Tribal Learning Patterns in THE CULTURE GAME book. Do them, and your tribe will prosper. Ignore them at your own peril.

Work is game, and it is poorly structured. This is why it is often not fun, and usually, unsatisfying. To level-up, Game the Work. Inject good-game mechanics into your work and meetings.

Once you are winning the culture game with your team, socialize your wins with triads. Form triads to socialize a culture of learning. Teach others that are willing exactly how to play the game. Once enough people are located in the wider story of organizational learning, the whole organization “goes Agile”. It sounds so simple. It’s not.

THE CULTURE GAME  book provides tools and a roadmap for encouraging real, genuine, positive change in your organization.