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Learning Structures

A framework for a workplace centred on knowledge and expertise



Let’s recall the challenge from Frédéric Laloux that we seek to respond to with Múcua:
“Can we create organizations free of the pathologies that show up all too often in the workplace? Free of politics, bureaucracy, and infighting; free of stress and burnout; free of resignation, resentment, and apathy; free of the posturing at the top and the drudgery at the bottom? Is it possible to reinvent organizations, to devise a new model that makes work productive, fulfilling, and meaningful? Can we create soulful workplaces—schools, hospitals, businesses, and nonprofits—where our talents can blossom and our callings can be honored?”
Excerpt from
by Frédéric Laloux
With the of Múcua, we formulated a work environment that is focused on the work performed for Customers and is void of the bureaucracy artifacts of 20th century hierarchies.
We established an approach that provides the opportunity for human beings to work and live without separation of classes, without politics and secretive confidentiality, where there is direction and focus but everybody contributes to good decisions and innovation, wherever they can contribute.
But the soul of work is not just to produce; it is also to learn. Work and Learning are the two sister ‘systems’ in the Múcua Model for Teal Organizations of a new era of human associations.
In this Chapter, we explain how we see Learning in the workplace and how we marry the concern of producing and fulfilling the mission of the Enterprise towards its Customers with the need for professionals to enrich themselves through the acquisition and development of knowledge.
Learning Structures is one of 2 branches in the ‘Baobab of Happiness’ that inspires Múcua.


Working and Learning

Every professional in the workplace strives to be the best that they can be. When you work, there is hope that the tasks you perform and the projects you undertake are not only production tasks but also learning opportunities.
Rule #1, then, is that the work a professional gets involved in has to be such that by performing that work she will become more knowledgeable in the learning path she chose.
Rule #2, is that a professional is situated in a grid of expertise where she knows at what level her knowledge is and what she needs to learn to move to the next level.
The Learning Structures defined in Múcua are based on the following notions:
Bodies of knowledge are defined for professions or professional spaces (and not, again, for what might be considered Functional Departments).
The ‘house’ that encompasses knowledge standards and activities for a profession is called an Academy
Inside the Academy, professionals will find guidance and sponsorship focused on their need to learn and become the best.


Before continuing in this chapter, let’s clarify:
Academies are neither Universities nor Faculties. It’s important to understand that Academies are places of discussion and sharing and where more experienced people lend their hand to beginners.
In the Múcuaverse, having a diploma is not a requirement for being recognized as a professional.
Essentially, a Professional (”a Pro”) is someone who practices a certain trade in a manner that is consistent, reliable and repeatable.
At the pace of innovation that we’re experiencing, knowledge is growing at a rate that can’t be captured in a rigid framework of ‘knowledge boxes’, backed by certifications and so on.
We think that professionals are people that take what they do very seriously, are very good at what they do and wish to continue to learn on an ongoing basis.
We also don’t believe that classical academic courses taken in a classroom are the best way to keep up to date with the pace of developments in science and technology in the world of today.
For that reason, from a perspective of ongoing development, our approach is far more social than academic.


Academies are groups of professionals who practice in a common broad area of interest. It's important that you don't misinterpret this statement as the same as defining functional groups, as is the case in classical hierarchies.

Academies versus Functions

Academies are more aligned with the notion of Profession than with the notion of Function. For example:
Sales or Finance are not good examples for Academies. Instead, both of those practises would ideally be encompassed by a general Business Management Academy.
Quality Assurance wouldn’t be a good choice for an Academy. Instead, you might have an Academy of Quality, where you might include QA, Regulatory Affairs, Quality Systems, field Quality Monitoring, etc.
Manufacturing Operations, Pharmaceutical Science, Financial Services, Digital Technology, Life Sciences Engineering (including Bio Engineering and Genetic Engineering) - these are good ‘cuts’ for Academies.

Academies are in the area of applied sciences and they are, of course, contextual. You might have an Academy of Manufacturing Operations in a Pharmaceutical Company and in an Auto Manufacturer. The two Academies would be drastically different.
Thus, the idea of an Academy is to foster knowledge development within an Enterprise. This is in opposition to a University's for example, where knowledge and expertise are not taught with a specific organization or even industry in mind.
Thus, the way to formulate a framework of Academies is to focus on what an Enterprise does and then think of the ‘big’ practices that the operation of the Enterprise encompasses - not the functional decomposition of a hierarchy.

Shape Shifting

As was the case with Pods and Huts, Academies are not frozen in structure or scope. If you start with one way of grouping professional interests, that’s just a starting point. With time, Spontaneous Association will lead to shuffles in the scope of Academies.
Having said that, Academies, if they are aligned with broad interests, tend to be far more stable than Work Structures.


It’s important to always keep in mind that Múcua is a network of humans operating in Cyberspace. It’s a network which means people are connected, they talk to each other.
Just as it was mentioned for Huts in Work Structures, Academies are not silos.
There’s nothing in the ‘charter’ of an Academy that prevents collaboration with other Academies;
And there is nothing in the Academy model that prevents someone who is part of Academy A from participating in the discussions in Academy B.
Academies are inclusive communities. What identifies an Academy are the interests associated with that Academy; it is not who is in the Academy, let alone who owns it (nobody owns any Academy).
It is this freedom of association and dialogue in the Múcua network that makes it so simple and powerful. You don‘t need to fuss with clear boundaries delineating each Academy; or introduce the annoying presence of controls that constrain how professionals learn and who sponsors each career. You just don’t fuss with it. You let it flow and reality takes care of those things.

Throughout the Internet there are bazillions of communities of this type. They are rarely owned by someone and they are usually open, i.e., open to anyone who is interested. One of the most common use cases for cyber Communities are user groups - people who use some technology, equipment or ‘thing’. For instance, there are communities for owners of BMW’s. You go in there and you look for help and often you find it. You don’t talk to a spokesperson or a boss to access assistance.
Look at Reddit - what a phenomenal universe of collaboration. It’s been around for such a long time and still operating famously well.
Sure, something must stop abuses and extremes. All social networks are exposed to the problems of misinformation and abusive behaviour. However, there are major differences between 3 Billion people in the Facebook network versus the people who share an Enterprise or even a Universe network. The exposure here to silly behaviour is no different than in a traditional office space; and, we suggest, such undesirable abuses - harassment, incompetency, misinformation - are far easier to manage in a collaborative network where everything is open and visible, than in an office space with closed doors.


So... what’s inside an Academy and how does it work?


Academies and indeed Spontaneous Association, are reliant upon a clear definition of Roles. Defining Roles is one of those things that is worth spending a lot of time discussing and refining.
When a victim of a car accident who is in critical condition arrives at the ED of a Hospital, there are doctors and nurses waiting (you’ve seen it on TV, huh?). There can’t be any confusion there as to who does what. “Am I cutting or are you?”; “Are you monitoring vital signs or who’s doing it?”; “Is someone going to get blood?”, etc. All these Roles have to be settled way before a patient comes through the emergency bay.
The same is true of Firefighters. Confusion in Roles will cause people to die, victims and first responders alike.
Fortunately, life in an Enterprise isn’t always as harrowing as in ED’s or Fires. But, the principle is the same - Roles have to be clear, there can be no confusion on what Roles mean and everybody collaborating in a network has to be aware of all the Roles they interact with.
And we mean this most seriously.

How to make Roles clear

In most classical organizations we’ve seen, confusion in “roles and responsibilities” is endemic. In spite of the bureaucracies created by HR departments, they’re still not clear. In large part, this is caused by functional silos. In Múcua, because everybody sees everything and there is open collaboration, community discussions are likely to settle any confusion fairly quickly.
It is worth nonetheless to provide some guidelines to help people come up with Roles or at least recognize Roles that are robust and simple as well as those that aren’t.
The method that makes Roles clear is called the CUE method. CUE, of course, is an acronym and stands for Clear, Unique and Elemental. Let’s see what this means:
Clear - if I tell you what this role is; and then I tell it to another person; when the two of you compare notes, you will have the same understanding of the Role definition I gave both of you.
Unique - that means that no other Role in the Enterprise has the same scope or even a similar scope.
Elemental - the scope of the Role only encompasses one thing, not many things (think of people who have long titles with “and” in the middle).

A Role that obeys the CUE rule is a Simple role (CUE is a rule of simplicity). When all the roles are Simple, there is little confusion and Spontaneous Association works best.
If you look at the titles of people in any organization, you will quickly find that most of them don’t follow CUE; and the more they deviate from this simplicity, the more there is confusion as to what they mean and how they are different from other similar Roles.
We once consulted to a Pharmaceutical company with 1,200 active titles. We showed them how to quickly reduce those titles to 50 and eventually 30. These 30 roles were not very large - remember: the E in CUE requires that one Role is only one thing. The collapse we achieved is more indicative of the complexity of functional organizations than anything else.

The Essence of Roles

In the Múcua model, we recommend that Roles be oriented towards professions and not functions.
Following are a few principles to follow in establishing the content of Roles (CUE insures that they are simple; but they still have to be right).
In Múcua, Enterprise Roles are not contextual. I.e., a Role doesn’t change because it is applied to people in, say, two Huts with very different missions. As an example, a Chemist in a Pharmaceutical company is a Chemist. Whether she’s working in drug development or production troubleshooting, it doesn’t matter: she’s a Chemist in both cases. The same can be said of Accountants, Industrial Engineers, Data Scientists, etc .
Roles reflect knowledge and expertise - not tasks. This is a fundamental difference with Functional decomposition where, of course, a Function means “tasks”. Accountant, for instance, is an appropriate Role and it maybe deployed in all sorts of Pods and Huts. But if an Accountant is checking supplier invoices, he might be called a “supplier invoice verifier” or “supplier invoice controller” - those wouldn’t be proper Roles - they would be contextual to a task; they wouldn’t work in another type of Pod.
Thus, when you think of the dimension of Roles in Múcua, think about what people know and not what people do. What people do - processes, methodologies - are part of the model of Work Structures.
When Roles are based on an understanding of fields of knowledge and professions, they become stable and then Academies become stable as well. Roles based on knowledge and the CUE method, are inherently Simple; there won’t be many; and they make the organization incredibly Simple.

That’s how we went from 1,200 to 30.

Academy Architecture

Ok, so, professionals in the Enterprise have clear Roles and based on those Roles, they are part of a knowledge community called an Academy. E.g.,
Chemists, Bioengineers, Molecular Biologists, Genetic Engineers, Doctors, Nurses and Pharmacists form the Academy of Life Sciences or the Academy of Pharmaceutical Science in an Enterprise.
Industrial Engineers, Instrumentation Engineers, Manufacturing Operators, Logistical Engineers, Warehouse Operators, come together in an Academy of Manufacturing Operations.
Data Scientists, Machine Learning Engineers, Blockchain Engineers, Software and Hardware Engineers - come together in an Academy of Digital Technologies.

And then, what happens?
Let’s look at this video to find out.


Expertise Pins

In an Academy, there are professionals of many fields of practice. In each case, the progression of knowledge increases from what might be considered entry level to the top of the profession.
We use 4 terms to designate levels of knowledge and proficiency, from less experience to most:
Rock Star
At each level, professionals receive a Pin.
For each Role (profession), there are profiles for the level of proficiency that corresponds to each Pin. That profile guides the professional on the areas where she needs to learn a bit more to move to the next level.
Hence, an Industrial Engineer might start as a Rock Star, later become a Ninja and so on.

Expertise Grids

In summary:
Professionals in an Enterprise have Roles and those Roles are ‘enveloped’ by Academies.
Someone with a Role, can be at one level of expertise or another, based on the knowledge that he or she acquired thus far.
Hence, a professional may have a Role and a Pin of Rock Star, Ninja, Jedi or Guru.
How does a professional know at what level she is and how to progress to the next level?...

Let’s watch the video:
In Summary:
Each Academy has an Expertise Grid. One Grid for all Roles of the Academy.
Each Role has 4 profiles cutting across the Expertise Grid, defining what each Pin requires on each knowledge category (columns) of the Grid.
At some point in time, a professional meets the requirements of one Pin and moves to the next; and gets the Pin of that next level.
Thus: a professional always has the Pin (and designation) of the level that she is currently working to achieve.
A Rock Start that met all the requirements of that level, moves on to work at the Ninja level. She has a Ninja Pin but hasn’t been certified yet. When she meets all the requirements she is Ninja-certified and gets a Jedi Pin.
In this system, the bar is always higher than what you are capable of. That’s how you learn😉

Titles and Designations

To keep things simple, at Múcua we like to think of professionals being designated as a combination of Profession + Pin. E.g.;
Microbioligy Ninja
Warehouse operations Jedi
Engineering Guru
Neuroscience Psychiatry Jedi

And so on. This is not a standard, by any means. It’s not compulsive, either. It’s just an approach that illustrates the meaning of these two terms: profession and Pin.
Here’s an example of Academies and Roles in the Pharmaceutical Industry. The title of an individual professional would be one of these followed by their Pin.


The human ego being what it is, it’s easy to think of these levels of expertise as a hierarchy - but it isn’t. Sure, if you’re a Guru in CRISPR-Cas9 therapeuticals, you may be entitled to feel like a ‘big shot’. However, in this model and culture, you don’t have Power, just because you are a big shot. What you have is to help those who know less; i.e., in some sense, you work for them.
When professionals become Jedis and Gurus, they acquire an added responsibility - they have to guide and coach Ninjas and Rock Stars. They become their Guardians. Thus, Jedis and Gurus are also Guardians.
In addition, Gurus are Guardians of Jedis too. Gurus, of course, don’t have Guardians.
What do Guardians do?
A Guardian sponsors a few Ninjas and Rock Stars. Jedis also have a Guardian who is a Guru.
When new professionals join the Enterprise, they are received by their Guardian.
The Guardian is someone who accompanies a professional as he/she goes through the journey to Jedi and Guru.
Guardians help organize the learning path for their protégés. They help determine their initial Pin level.
Guardians also work with Eagle Pods to identify the Pod where someone should be inserted or, in the case of a change, move to.
Guardians are the people that professionals go to for guidance in regards to what they’re learning and how to stay on the right track.
As the professional progresses, Guardians work with their protégés to assess and to reset their Pin level.
One more time: Guardians are sponsors; they’re like ‘godparents’. They are not managers and they are not bosses.
The establishment of pins is between Guardian and protégé. It’s not subject to approval by some committee.
However, Pin’s and their attribution is public; in other words, when someone moves up from one Pin level to another, this event is public to the community, which helps ensure that there is fairness and coherence in how knowledge levels are accomplished.

That’s what Guardians do as Guardians. But remember, they are also Jedis and Gurus, which means that they have ‘regular jobs’ in their respective Pods.

Guardians versus Eagles

There is no relationship between being a Guardian and being an Eagle. These are completely different roles.
Eagle is a work structure term. Guardian, Guru, Jedi, etc., are learning structure terms. Each professional has one of each and the combinations are whatever they need to be.
An Eagle may be a Jedi, a Ninja or whatever. A member of a Pod team may be a Guru or a Rock Star.
And neither of these structures is a hierarchy. They are arrangemets.

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