Where is your organisation on the learning ladder of purpose?

Benjamin P. Taylor
3 min readNov 17, 2021

How organisations relate to their contexts is critical.

I’m talking customers, consumers, and citizens. The purpose of organisation is to create value for them.

The learning ladder of purpose (a work in progress) helps us to think about how we are engaging in the world.

Most organisations are at level 1.0 — they are focused on the resources they have available, not the needs of their customers. This is ‘push’ production — we have money and material, so we build some stuff and try to sell it.

In public services it’s keeping people away through setting eligibility levels.

1.1 is where you pay attention to what you think the customer or citizen wants.

But you believe that your order book and CRM system are a useful place to look to find this out (they’re not). The Soviet Union was the biggest producer of shoes in the world — people kept buying them because they were so badly made and uncomfortable, you needed ten pairs to get a good left and a good right.

At step 1.2, you realise that you are measuring ‘avoidable demand’ — that kind of negative repeat business because what you produce isn’t meeting needs.

So you try to look beyond your system, but you’re stuck in current #management thinking, so you keep asking people how you can make them faster horses when they want a motor car.

Step 2.0 is about listening to actual demand and building processes to meet that demand — but it’s still in our understanding.

Step 2.1 starts to try to listen to the demand in *their* words.

This is where you begin to get energy, learning, and real benefits — but also where the people helping to do the change start to get cracked apart from the system, because they’re saying something new, in a different language. This puts a lot of demand on leaders to be able to listen and adapt, instead of just blame and avoid.

2.2 is where you’ve finally cracked that what people come and tell you they need isn’t the whole story, and you put on your pith helmet and safari suit and go and look in your customer’s worlds.

Step 3.0 of the ladder is trying to help people with the need behind the demand — the pain that caused them to want something. You might realise in step 3.1 that ‘services are bad for people’ and you are getting sucked in to co-dependency.

So step 4.0 is starting with the strengths of your customers and citizens, looking at how you can help them to help themselves.

Step 4.1 is creating the conditions for needs to be met in their contexts, their worlds.

And step 5.0 is being able to choose from all of these steps in a way that fits the mature of the organisation while being grounded in the world of your customer or citizen. It’s #RequisiteAgility

Moving up the ladder takes awareness, sensitivity and skill.

It unlocks energy, change, #innovation, learning, #creativity, success — and conflict, destabilisation, and risk.

Where is your organisation on the ladder?

Join me and some truly amazing and provoking speakers at Requisite Agility Unleashed — https://www.requisiteagility.org/attend/ra-unleashed-conference on 7–9 December.

Use code RAUN75 for a massive 75% off the basic ticket.

Or join me in the RedQuadrant tool shed to co-learn all our thinking and approaches with a cohort of peers — see http://bit.ly/RQtoolshedshownandtell — 20% discount available right now on the monthly £395 fee.

PS Obviously ‘learning ladder of purpose’ is a pretty crappy name — I’d welcome suggestions for better :-)