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The soft know-how of organizations, a benefit for collective learning

“When gentleness and cruelty contend for a kingdom, it is the gentleness that wins the prize. »

William Shakespeare; Henry V (1599)

The invisible knowledge

The knowledge that makes the difference between individuals or organizations is invisible. They take place in the shelter of the inner fort. For employees, “soft skills” are mentioned. Soft skills are often attributed to employees. According to international bodies, the proposed standards include knowing how to communicate, create, imagine and position one’s skills in a digital world. UNESCO, the World Bank and the EEC have made them issues of adaptation in a knowledge society.

Researchers in management sciences, for their part, identify “organizational behaviors” useful to understand in order to anticipate the reactions of organizations to change. A behavior is defined as an observable reaction on the part of a subject. Organizations also adopt behaviors. For example, quite systematically, a multinational taken in a scandal will deploy “elements of language” to justify itself in order to protect its reputation capital. A crisis cell will be set up and deliver speeches and take action.

Another example faced with a difficult economic context, an organization will exercise its specific way of being in the world. Thus an administration will seek to reassure and control the uncertainties for its citizens, a company will adapt its communication towards its customers, a university will question the needs of its students. Each entity, according to its own mission, implements predictable reactions to situations, which is called organizational behavior.

Organizational behaviors

Organizational behavior is studied in management sciences to understand the reaction of organizations and help them evolve according to contexts, even to change routines and beliefs. Several disciplines are mobilized to unravel the web of causes and effects that preside over organizational choices. Psychosociology, psychology, history, educational sciences and of course management sciences.

These disciplines are combined to understand the evolution of complex systems and the mechanisms of adaptation, innovation and even business decline. Human resources management is particularly interested in the issue to improve organizational justice, recognition processes, career and promotion dynamics and training dynamics.

The softness of organizational behavior

Organizations also have soft know-how. There are 4 essentials

  • Organizational creativity which is defined by Durand (2006) as a “process by which an organization modifies its constitution with the aim of both acting on the behavior of individuals in relation to the resources made available by the organization and perpetuating its action in time” and ability to create transformative “organizational objects”, through new participatory practices (design, facilitation, new project, creation of “professional dispute”, space for dialogue)
  • Learn to learn together : in this regard, all teaching methods that promote the energy to carry out collective projects, to take up challenges, to protect the right to make mistakes and to experiment, to create loops of reflexivity are part of this knowledge do organizational.
  • Voluntary cooperation which benefits group action versus individual action, logic of the collective intelligence of flocks of birds or fish capable of producing powerful system effects for the benefit of each of its members.
  • Critical sense“Everyone’s continuous search to move from a complexity that inhibits us to a simplexity that goes to the essentials and leads us into action. This critical sense is present in all critical studies in management, sociology, history, etc. seeks to get out of simplistic solutions by striving to deconstruct a reality that would be immutable

The acquisition of new organizational behaviors requires a surplus of imagination. To have more imagination, we need to create new imaginations, take time to daydream, so that our minds are less constrained by immediate productivity. Indeed, if our schedules and our minds are filled with things to do or think about, there is hardly a vacuum available for new ideas to emerge. If the critical sense is prohibited no favorable divergence will be possible.

Gentle organizational know-how knows how to spare time for strolling, leaving play in the oiled mechanisms of the processes to allow teams, collectives and individuals to evolve their actions to create new benchmarks and new values.


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