Borrowed from NASA: 3 of My Favorite Team Learning Strategies

For the past 6 years I have been asked to be an instructor for the Doctor of Organizational Leadership program at Indiana Wesleyan University. It has become one of my favorite weeks of the year.

I get the opportunity to engage with a very diverse group of adults who have backgrounds ranging from education and business to non-profit and government intelligence (where you really can not know what they do!)

The one thing they all have in common is the seeking of an advanced degree. As I talked with the students I learned there are a lot of reasons they decided to enter into such a rigorous academic program. Everything from a cure for boredom to career advancement.


The subject I teach for the week is Adult and Organizational Learning; one that both students and practitioners of leadership need to really pay close attention to. I think one of the primary responsibilities leaders have in organizations is to help followers learn. Making sure that there is a safe place for people to learn becomes a critical success factor in successful organization.

Amy Edmonson, in her book, The Fearless, Organization: Creating Psychological Safety In the Workplace for Learning, Innovation, and Growth states, "Success requires a continuous influx of new ideas, new challenges, and critical thought, and the interpersonal climate must not suppress, silence, ridicule or intimidate. Not every idea is good, and yes there are stupid questions, and yes dissent can slow things down, but talking through these things is an essential part of the creative process.”

3 Strategies

One of the articles we review in the course I teach is written by Edward Rogers and Mike Ryschkewitsech where they outline six different strategies NASA uses to capture knowledge and facilitate learning. I thought it would be fun to outline 3 of my favorites for you so you can use them as a bench mark for how you are doing in your organization and/or with your team.

  1. Pause and Learn - The idea behind this strategy is that not only at the end of an event or mission, but at key times along the way, to have the team STOP and talk about what they are learning as they go. This can be an important benchmark to understanding the culture of the group so that the leader knows what the thoughts are and can decide if any course corrections are needed.

    You really want to be intentional with the “pause” in this strategy. Get a meeting site that is not one where you regularly meet. This is not a time for routine, but putting people in a different context so they can really dig in and think about what it is they need to learn. Then review what was supposed to happen and lay out what did happen. As the discussion ensues, make sure you are getting and recording all the input from every participant. All opinions are valid and needed if the learning is going to be complete. Then have the team organize the thoughts from the discussion and summarize any key actions needed moving forward.

  2. Knowledge Sharing Workshops - Successful organizations thrive on learning. Successful leaders will from time to time hold sessions for anyone in the organization to attend to share the good work their team is doing. These meetings can range from 90 minute sessions to full day events and are meant to not only shed some light and learning on what your group is doing, but can also be used as a successful recruiting tool for talent.

  3. Case Studies - I realize this is not a new idea, but I certainly think it is under utilized. Cases can be written and shared around seminal events that a team has experienced and then disseminated amongst groups for learning. The main idea is to look at the inputs and decisions that a group had as they worked through problems. Then this learning can be shared and discussed by others in the organization.

One example might be a team who is new formed and built from the ground up writes a case that shows all the inputs and decisions and then makes this available for other teams to learn from as they interview and build teams of their own. Case studies are unique ways to capture organizational learning and sharing in a safe and productive learning environment.

If you have successes with any of these, or other knowledge sharing strategies, I would love to hear from you and learn from your experience. Please reach out to me and share your learning. Maybe we could write some case studies together?