I was asked by some clients to come up with a rapid-fire indicator to determine whether a specific organization was really a "learning organization."…I decided the best indicator would be to ask employees, "Can you make a mistake around here?"
When people in various organizations tried this out in practice, asking groups of employees that key question, they were almost always given the same response: "Yes, you can make a mistake, but you will pay for it." Some of these organizations were the very same ones that touted themselves as "learning organizations" in their annual reports and public-relations statements, but if they penalize their employees for making mistakes, not much learning will happen…
if you pay a substantial price for being wrong, you are rarely going to risk doing anything new and different because novel ideas and practices have a good chance of failing, at least at first. So you will stick with the tried and true, avoid mistakes, and learn very little.