Toyota engineers emphasize that learning how to use the know how database does not make a good engineer. This is not to say that engineering database is not useful for learning. Databases are primarily born out of experience of other engineers who found that exceeding certain limits might cause a problem.
Databases are tools to provide guidelines and ensure that the engineer or the designer does not forget the key points. It certainly helps training young engineers and designers but fails to create a great engineer. A database can only provide the limits on possible design solutions. It helps an engineer to know when not to exceed a limit or keep something at some minimum. It certainly does not make him creative.
At times, there is a need to exceed limits or change the structure to make the system as a whole function better. This obviously calls for better design thinking that would involve learning by doing through prototyping, extra testing and field studies. If this proves OK then the previous level of social or organizational learning jumps to a new level. This is something like a quantum jump that is reflected through changed fractals within the entire organization.
If the organization stagnates at any particular level of learning, say by sticking to the database, then everyone learns the same thing and we would see the corresponding fractals of that learning in everything the organization does or produces. With a quantum leap in learning the fractals within the organization change immediately reflecting new learning.
But how would that possibly happen?Possibly we may learn about this from Toyota.
Real engineering would remain a creative activity that would involve innovative thinking to solve problems or provide the desired functions to the customer while treating database constraints as standards.
Toyota places great emphasis on developing know-how over time by doing the work under the guidance of a mentor because it is the only way to develop the real creative power of the engineer. Over the years Toyota has developed such mentors within the rank and file of their organization.
But this poses a problem.
Most organizations are filled up with doers and thinkers but not mentors or the wise ones as I call them. And with performance review systems in place (one of the 5 deadly organizational sins of Dr. Deming) it becomes still harder to develop mentors, teamwork and retain people who would be willing to learn over time.
So, what might be a new path of learning for most organizations since it is vital to developing and sustaining competitive edge?
To my mind E 2.0 has the potential to provide the new framework for social learning in organizations under natural work conditions. People would learn from each other. People would learn from the mistakes made by others. People would become aware of the customer problems and take steps to correct their thinking. The organization as a whole becomes aware, active and thinking.
E2.0 offers other advantages as well. It can seamlessly connect customers, outside experts, suppliers, trainers, mentors and every department of the organization into a cohesive whole all working towards a common purpose.
How to do that would be a creative design process in its own right.