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Navigating Complexity at Scale with Mary Uhl Bien

Navigating Complexity at Scale with Mary Uhl BienSystem leadership creates the container that allows solutions to emerge over time. Complexity Leadership is leadership in and of emergence. Emergence is what allows individuals and organizations to adapt and survive. The pressure of survival is the strongest complexity pressure that promotes the most adaptation. Three different types of leadership is required - entrepreneurial leadership, enabling leadership, and operational More »

Systems Leadership: A Mindset for Tackling Complex Problems with Lisa Dreier

Systems Leadership:  A Mindset for Tackling Complex Problems with Lisa DreierSystems Leadership is both a mindset and skillset for tackling complex challenges—capacities that any individual or organization can use to catalyze, enable, and support the process of systems-level More »

LILA @20 in 2020 Summit: Ecologies of Learning Perspectives and Provocations

LILA @20 in 2020 Summit:  Ecologies of Learning Perspectives and Provocations This year, the Learning Innovations Laboratory (LILA) community has been exploring the theme of Ecologies of Learning which in hindsight seems to be particularly relevant theme given the crisis we all face. Learning Ecologies offers a perspective on how organizations can develop new capabilities, organize work, and manage careers in order to take advantage of the new world order. The idea of a learning ecology recognizes that learning is unfolding all the time in complex ways, through peer relationships, networks, informal coaching, the way people interact in person and virtually, etc. which can be learning-synergistic or not.  What people are learning includes not only particular skills and understandings that formal learning might target, but also the "hidden curriculum" – how to informally pick up on the patterns of survival and thriving within the organization.   Participants can view the description of the Perspectives and Provocation Session by clicking here prior to making your More »

April 2020 LILA Member Call Beth Schinoff - Workplace Relationships in a Virtual World

April 2020 LILA Member Call Beth Schinoff - Workplace Relationships in a Virtual WorldThe workplace is often the seedbed for meaningful connections - one of the “three main spaces” in our lives - home, work, church. Church has receded over time, replaced by technology and other places of congregation (e.g., coffee shop). Workplace has become an increasingly important source of belonging. At the same time, we are facing a loneliness epidemic. We have an aging workforce, and remote work seems to play a huge role in loneliness epidemic, even among millennials. Hence, there are societal reasons to foster connection at work. From an organizational perspective, when a friendship is overlaid on coworking relationship, this is referred to as “multiplex relationship.” The major benefits of these relationships for organizations are that they generally enhance job performance and organizational commitment. More »

Storytelling for Learning From Others with Chris Myers

Storytelling for Learning From Others with Chris MyersWe know that tapping into experiences as part of our learning ecologies makes them richer and enables us better able to adapt to new situations.  At LILA, we have explored practices that enable us to do this at the individual level.  But what about creating learning ecologies at scale that enable learning to an entire team for example.  This is the starting point for today’s presentation by Dr. Chris Myers, Assistant Professor at the Carey School of Business at Johns Hopkins More »



Our Current Focus

  1. 2018-2019 LILA Theme: Collective Mindfulness – Shaping the Human Systems in Organizations

    Drawing on the fields of cognitive psychology, neurocognitive science, collective mind theory and organizational science we will explore questions such as what are the mechanisms that support collective mindfulness? How might we shape the social systems to create thriving ecologies? How might the macro and micro narratives come into conversation to further strategic paths? How can collective mindful organizing amplify the desired states? We will engage the theme through these three topics.

  2. LILA Theme for 2016-2017

    Every year, the LILA community focuses on a particular theme of interest to members that will help them advance their thinking regarding the initiatives they are leading in their organizations. The 2016-2017 theme is Adaptive Cultures: How Institutions Set the Conditions for Success.

  3. Managing Complexity – How Organizations Navigate Strategic paradoxes

    Managing Complexity – How organizations navigate strategic paradoxes Dynamic work environments are complex and the changing conditions of ambiguity, uncertainty, conflicting goals, contradictory messages, and competing perspectives create barriers to effective performance. We are asked to take a long-term view and to make short-term decisions that increase profits. We are asked to learn new things and to perform at highest levels. We need to innovate and to operate in predictable ways. We oscillate between centralized and decentralized operational structures. We organize work closely for control and want people to show initiative and self-organize. We encourage collective identity and reward individual...

  4. Last Year’s Focus

    The starting point for our exploration of flexpertise was recognition of the incredible power of expertise. Our world runs on expertise – technical, political, economic, management, etc. Any one of us can live a good life knowing only a little about microcircuits or international finance or water shortages because other people know a lot, and we benefit from their knowledge. Departments in organizations can get away with knowing only a bit about X or Y because some other department or an outsourcer does it expertly. It’s a wonderful and amazing system. However, as individuals and organizations, we often don’t make...

What’s New

  1. Join us for the 13th Annual LILA Summit with Rob Cross and Ryan Quinn

    This has been another intriguing year at LILA as we have taken on the theme of Collective Mindfulness: Shaping the Human Systems in Organizations. I hope that you will join us at this year’s LILA Summit on June 12th in Cambridge where the two keynote speakers are Rob Cross and Ryan Quinn. They will be joined by six past LILA faculty who will share their latest research with participants during small group conversations. In these sessions, you will have an opportunity to exchange ideas on how the research can inform your individual and organizational practices. The Summit is also a great occasion to meet and interact with the broader LILA community, including faculty, researchers, and current and past members, and to get a better sense as to who we are as a learning community and what you might experience as a member.

  2. What do the members in your organization actively do to pick up weak cues signaling threat and/or opportunity?


    During the December 2018 LILA member call, Professor Claus Rerup provided some insights into these questions. His research focuses on what he identifies as attentional triangulation – how a group of people (e.g., teams and organizations) avoid missing cues about threat or opportunity. Paying attention to the right kinds of cues is likely a mechanism toward achieving this year’s theme of collective mindfulness. When teams and organizations do not act in collectively mindful ways and are on autopilot, it is likely at least in part through lack of attentional triangulation.

  3. The social structure of cultural change: Damon Centola

    A dominant theory cultural norms are functional, but Damon provoked us to consider that there are cases in which norms are not functional at all, and can even be dysfunctional. Conformity norms stifle speaking up, for example which is seen in the Emperor’s New Clothes story and Stalin’s Russia. Such norms often comes from some sense of exogenous authority that dictate a behavior (political science), or sense of what is better (behavioral economics), or snow-ball effects of what’s popular (sociology). But all of these explanations assume there is awareness of all these things and they are valuable in some way....

  4. Where the tipping point missed the point

    Damon Centola’s work unpacked assumptions in networks that related to how ideas/behavior spread through networks via “strong vs. weak” ties.  For many years, and argued well in Gladwell’s Tipping Point, the belief was that all ideas spread like viruses through networks. Daemon’s work points out that what is important is the distinction between simple contagions (ideas/actions that requires a single contact) vs complex contagions (ideas/actions that require multiple contacts and social reinforcement). Many cultural practices require social reinforcement, particularly when there is uncertainty & risk, run against norms, or interdependence with other technologies. What is important to know is how complex...

  5. Why tightness is terrible and terrific

    Michele Gelfand’s work in social psychology explores how micro changes in behaviors connect to larger shifts in values in cultures.  Her work has looked the effect of social norms across cultures. Her concept is that there are qualitative differences in tight groups (with strong norms, litter tolerance for deviance, more orderly) vs. loose groups (weak norms, high tolerance for deviance, less orderly). Her research showed that tight groups coordinate well amidst threats of survival, both human made (e.g. tribal conflicts) and natural (e.g. natural disasters).  Tightness can be activated, too, by real of natural threats. And the situations, such as libraries...

  6. What We Learned About Unlearning To Learn

    This brief represents the culmination of our year of exploring the theme of unlearning to learn together. Over the course of the year, we have explored how we can best define, understand, and foster unlearning. Unlearning is learning to think, behave, or perceive differently, when there are already beliefs, behaviors, or assumptions in place (that get in the way), at either the individual or the organizational level. It becomes important when individuals, groups, and whole organizations have to find ways to effectively support change, overwrite old habits, surface and supplant entrenched ways of thinking, and develop new ways of working...

  7. Journal of Workplace Learning Publishes LILA Research on Informal Learning Conversations


    Informal learning conversations with colleagues is a powerful yet understudied source of self-directed, professional development. This study investigated the types of learning 79 leaders from 22 organizations reported they learned from 44 peer-led conversations over a two-year period. Survey data suggests empirical evidence of five learning outcomes – informational, conceptual, operational, reflective, and social learning. The study describes these categories, the overall distribution of these types of learning in the community, and how most conversations were “rich” in a particular outcome. It concludes with possible explanations for these patterns as well as potential lines for future research.

  8. Leaders as Problem Finders

    The LILA Community explored the Problem Finding Organization. Michael Roberto shared his finding that leaders at all levels must hone their skills as problem-finders to identify and correct problems and prevent catastrophe.

Upcoming LILA Events

  • September 17, 2020 - Member Call
  • October 15-16, 2020 - Understanding and Engaging Collaboration in the System
  • November 19, 2020 - Member Call
  • December 10, 2020 - Member Call
  • January 21, 2021 Member Call
  • February 10-11, 2021 - Developing Core Capabilities of System Leadership
  • March 18, 2021 - Member Call
  • April 14-15, 2021 - Catalyzing System Leadership
  • May 13, 2021 - Member Call
  • June 8-9, 2021 - 15th Annual LILA Summit: Navigating System Leadership at Scale

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