Building Fast-twitch Organizations

How organizations gain the competitive advantage by learning faster than their competitors

In today’s digital world, staying ahead of the curve is a constant challenge for organizations. The pace of business is exponentially higher now than it was even a decade ago. Technology is evolving, and the ability to keep current has become a critical success factor. Organizations need to embrace constant and rapid change. They need to equip all employees with information, motivation, and support to think critically and systemically, allowing them to innovate and reduce waste. So, how can organizations accomplish this? They need to become a fast-twitch organization.

Fast-twitch is a type of muscle in the body that allows humans to sprint out fast with explosive power and speed using short bursts of activity. Within an organization, being fast-twitch means the organization is able to adjust to changes and innovations quickly, by providing scalable enablement, and fostering a culture that supports it. According to Peter Senge, “The only sustainable competitive advantage is an organization’s ability to LEARN faster than the competition.”

So, how can organizations do this? What does a fast-twitch organization look like?

There are different approaches to take, but it all comes down to three key components: the various levels of enablement, the systems to support it, and the culture.

3 levels of enablement

When talking about enablement, there is always a debate about face-to-face vs. on-demand and what is the right approach, taking into account the costs as well as the value of the outcomes. Rather than making it an either-or option, the key is to use both, to cover the right outcomes needed at the right time, and do it in a cost-effective way.

There are 3 levels of enablement that work in unison together based off the intended outcomes: Activate, Apply, and Integrate. The objectives of each level are different. Activate is to provide fundamental information and knowledge about something the learner requires. Apply provides more knowledge around applying that knowledge into various scenarios. Integrate focuses on the learner integrating this knowledge into their work environment with their previous experiences and getting feedback from an expert. Let’s take a look at each level in more detail.

Integration is the top level of enablement and it focuses on integrating what the students learn into their jobs, and providing coaching and support. Typically, this is a high-touch approach within either a 1-1 or 1-few setting.

Any information or skills that are prerequisite or needed as a baseline could be covered in the next level down, the Apply level. This is typically a medium-touch approach, like a workshop, where you may have a handful of students, but you are teaching them something and how to internalize it and apply it to their job. There is typically a facilitator who ensures students are collaborating and learning from each other.

Any information or skills that are prerequisite or needed as a baseline could be covered in the lowest-level, the Activate level. This is commonly using a low-touch or no-touch approach including OnDemand learning with the focus on individual learning. These still use adult learning techniques to make sure the students learn what they require for their roles, but they are not, at this point, applying that knowledge or integrating it into their daily jobs. The added benefit of the low touch level is that learners can revisit these at any time as they need to for a refresher, making it scale for just-in-time support and allowing organizations to get baseline knowledge out faster to the field.


To create a fast-twitch organization, you need a system that connects all the enablement from Activate to Integrate. Have clear paths for users that provide the right activation, followed by the right application with facilitators and then the right integration with coaching support.


Most importantly, you can spend massive amounts of time and resources building this content and setting this infrastructure up, but if you do not have the organizational culture to support continuous learning, you will not see any return on your investment. The culture needs to come first, not last. The first step an organization should make is to foster an environment and culture that is conductive to learning. Everyone in the organization should be encouraged to try new things and actively seek out learning opportunities. Organizations must foster a culture to support their employee’s opportunities to learn.

Just like world-class sprinters use specific training programs to build their fast-twitch muscles, world-class organizations should use the 3-levels of enablement, supported by the right system and culture to learn faster than their competition and become a fast-twitch organization.

Organizational success is not luck, it is science. Learn from our own Kevin Hanegan how organizations can become fast-twitch organizations.

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