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Dr Nigel Paine creates The 7 principles of Organizational Learning

London, UKLearning Ltd

Dr Nigel Paine provides the key learnings from his research into organizational learning.


Organizational learning is the focus for Dr Nigel Paine’s next book, to be published this summer. As well as sharing his research and thinking in a webinar series on the topic, Paine has created the core principles that underpin his work. 

Paine explains why he has created the 7 principles of organizational learning: “When I was writing my latest book, there were so many strands of evidence to explore and pull together that I decided to create some key points to feature in and alongside the book – a set of principles that distilled everything clearly and simply. I had research and fieldwork to include, old and new, plus case study material from all the organizations I’ve worked with over the years. When you have evidence on this scale, it’s easy to be pulled in lots of different directions at the same time. That’s not necessarily a bad thing - it’s part of the process – but I thought creating these principles would ensure clarity of thinking for me and for anyone who reads the book.”

“That’s how The 7 Principles of Organizational Learning came about. These principles are the bigger picture, the key learnings and messages I want to share. Why 7? Not because I think it’s a magic number or it’s my favourite number or anything else like that – it’s 7 because they are the 7 areas that I think sum everything up.”

So how can people use these principles? Paine says they are there to provoke thinking and action. “What do I expect people to do with these principles? Whatever they like is the answer! Nobody has to do anything with them. I’m not expecting people to print them off and stick them on the wall and pay homage to them. But, if people find them interesting and thought provoking and useful, that’s great. And if they are used to start a debate or a conversation between people or in organisations, even better. It might be that the principles speak differently to different people. Principle 7 might resonate really well in one organisation, for example, but not principle 4. It’s up to individuals and organizations to decide what resonates for them and if they want to hone in on certain principles. I see them as a coherent whole but they can be used flexibly according to context and culture. 

The 7 principles of Organizational Learning

  1. Most people in the workplace want to do a good job/work. But they are held back, thwarted by organizational structures and culture.
  2. So many people are prevented from doing their best work in the workplace. Obsolete systems and processes get in the way, rendering innovation, collaboration and agility almost impossible. In some organisations, it’s a miracle work actually happens.
  3. There is no place in a modern workplace for bullying, intimidation, and bad behaviour. And yet these behaviours happen everywhere, all the time.
  4. When you focus on individuals, you boost individuals. That encourages people to compete with their colleagues. Rather, you should help them to share what they know, and share their learning.
  5. When people learn together, can ask for help and are not penalised for offering help, the practice and process of work is better. We learn better as communities but so often organisations implement systems and processes that force us apart, punish us for admitting weakness and encourage us to hold onto insights rather than share them.
  6. When learning is locked in people's heads, it's very hard for organisations to make real progress. When learning is out there, accessible to all, the organization can transform itself on a regular basis.
  7. We live in an age of increased uncertainty, where agility and resilience are absolutely key. But resilient, agile organisations need resilient, agile employees. The foundation of resilience and agility should be based on working with others, not on looking after yourself.


Next in Paine’s The Organizational Learning Reimagined and Redesigned series is Embracing External Insights To Drive Change on March 7 2024, followed by Adopting Healthy Habits: How To Fail In Order To Learn And How To Ask For Help. To sign up, visit here.