Lean is more about learning than knowledge

by Jamie Flinchbaugh on 03-17-17

What will be more useful in the future, knowledge or learning? Knowledge changes, sometimes rapidly. Machines make knowledge more accessible, both in terms of who and when. How we learn, I suggest, has much greater leverage. That is why I’ve been on a mission to define lean as the ultimate embodiment of a learning organization, and did some of the earliest work connecting Peter Senge’s learning organization work with lean and Toyota.

A great article on the future of where this goes is Why Smart Machines Will Boost Emotional Intelligence, from Knowledge at Wharton. The author defines the difference between Old Smart and New Smart. Old Smart…

Old Smart won’t work. The question I’m sure you’re asking is, “Okay, what in the heck is New Smart?” Well, if you think of Old Smart, let’s think about how you and I grew up. From elementary school on, we were trained to get high grades — high grades meant you were smart. How did you get high grades? You don’t make mistakes. Smart is basically, “I knew more things than you. I got more right answers. I remembered more things.” Smart was a quantity concept. Well, that’s a losing game.

That’s very different than New Smart…

We will not flourish along with smart machines by ourselves. It is going to be an otherness game. It is not going to be a competitive game. It’s going to be a collaboration game. New Smart is a new way of thinking, to define yourself not by what [you] know or how much [you] know, but by the quality of [your] thinking, listening, relating and collaborating.

Lean is fundamentally an operating system that enables collaboration and thinking. Therefore, it is a way forward into the “new smart.”