The Living and Learning Organization – May Focus

“We shape our buildings. Thereafter they shape us.” This is equally true of organizational structures. We create our organizations out of our vision, values and relationships, and thereafter, they shape us in our development. So how does one work within an organization to create and sustain healthy development? A first step in understanding this process requires developing an imagination about living organizations.

To understand a living being, one needs to know its physiology, its environment and connection to the rest of the world, the phases of its general development and its individual biography. It is the same with an organization. All organizations are complex sets of relationships evolving over time. Like living organisms, they have a birth, a purpose, an unfolding life story, internal processes, social dynamics and a relationship to their environment that evolves over time. They also have certain processes and principles that guide them, affect them and that determine their success, health and longevity. Rudolf Steiner articulated a number of fundamental principles or social laws that can act as guides for understanding individual and organizational dynamics.


Three articles this month focus on specific aspects of how to understand and work with the life in our organizations.

The Phases of School Development by Chris Schaefer explores the life phases of organizations, their qualities and challenges.

Emerging Hypothesis by Rea Gill explores the background of her attempts to bring new imagination to organizational life in a Waldorf school.

Organizational Integrity by Torin Finser explores the relationship of human physiology to organizational development, especially how the functions of organs provide insight into the processes in an organization.


We have also posted in the forums a list of other related articles and resources that provide insight and further explore the living nature of organizations.

Organizations as Living Organisms by Magda Lissau which looks at a school in light of life processes and the elements.

School as a Living Entity by Rea Gill, an ebook exploring the story of Rea's work in Vancouver and the dynamics of creating a school as a living entity.

Theory U and Presencing by Otto Scharmer from MIT, a creative new approach to living systems.

Learning and Organizations by Mark Smith is a scholarly exploration of the definition and principles of a learning organization and the wide range of perspectives on what is meant by a learning organization.

Sociocracy, a new approach to organizational life and health being used worldwide to develop communities which is very congruent with the life of Waldorf schools.