Coaching for Learning: Lessons for Organizational Renewal

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Using the Grinnell College basketball program as an example of organizational learning, this paper addresses the role of the coach as a renewal agent and the methods used to “reinvent” Grinnell’s approach to the game. By challenging conventional assumptions and experimenting with unorthodox strategies based on existing team strengths (such as they were), then systematically gathering, analyzing, and learning from performance data, the coach and team were able to redesign their “operating plan” and win games. Their results — several league championships and the achievement of NCAA all-division scoring records — prompted a story in The Wall Street Journal. This paper goes on to describe 10 leadership strategies — mostly involving the creation of a data-driven “learning conversation” between coach and players — that sustained ongoing experimentation and innovation.

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