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Team Learning

According to Senge (1990a), team learning is a process of aligning and developing capacity of teams to create results. Aligned teams become more effective as members complement one another's skills and knowledge. Learning together is essential to developing the capacity of a team. Senge suggests that learning must be shared with others and put into action in order to be "truly" useful (1990b).

There are many tools for team learning including dialogue, practice, relationship building, and collaborative technologies. The one common denominator among team learning tools is investing time together toward building collaborative relationships (A Learning Approach to Teams). Collaborative relationships are required for building team learning capacity. Teams spend time forming and sharing ideas, developing and challenging assumptions, as well as identifying collective strengths.

Learning teams explore issues through dialogue. Dialogue requires high levels of trust and candor and a highly developed ability to listen. Discussion is required for effective dialogue and it provides the opportunity to present and defend different views. Many teams remain groups because of their inability to suspend their assumptions (Learning Curves) and their inability to move on to dialogue from discussion (Zondlo, 1995).

Team synergy suggests that the collective intelligence of a team can be potentially greater than the sum of individual intelligences of the team. Team synergy also implies that teams are more efficient at learning because they also learn much faster than the speed of the sum of the individuals.

The Nature of Teams

Characteristics of Team Learning

Checklist for Team Learning

Cautions when Encouraging Technology Team Learning

$ Encourage everyone on the team to use the technologies as often as possible. The tendency to revert back to old ways of doing things will prevail if continuous use of the technology is not encouraged.

$ Encourage all team dialogue including informal dialogue to take place in the team’s electronic shared space. The real loss resulting from not using the technology is the dialogue and information sharing that doesn't occur. By encouraging all dialogue to take place in the team's electronic shared space, more opportunities for dialogue occur.

$ Encourage an online culture that reinforces knowledge sharing and continuous communication. Eventually it will become common to continuously share and communicate online.

$ Encourage team members to learn from each other and selected outside resources. With continuous use of the technology and the practice of using other online resources, learning online becomes a habit. Once this habit is established, regression toward the old ways of doing things is unlikely.

$Encourage concurrent uses of knowledge in terms of capturing, storing, sharing and applying. Build processes that routinely capture and store knowledge that can then be easily shared and applied by others.


Adapted from Balasubramanian, 1996; Senge, 1990a; Senge et al., 1994; and Zondlo, 1995.

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Last updated: March 10, 1998