Teams are increasingly common in the workplace, and in the current economic environment, teams of all kinds and sizes are being forced to learn and adapt to changing circumstances. However, it can be quite challenging for teams to learn for a variety of social and psychological reasons.
Teams are susceptible to developing habits, and to becoming inwardly focused. As a "social defense" against anxiety, teams have a tendency to become insular and to ignore or deny outside perspectives. In a stable environment, it is less problematic that teams develop automatic responses to challenges. However, in an economy where all sorts of safety nets are eroding and all kinds of reconfigurations are becoming necessary, teams must overcome their reluctance to learn.
One reason why it's hard for teams to learn is because learning often involves challenging assumptions held by the team, which may threaten those with more power and authority in the team. Successful teams endeavor to adopt a "truth speaks to power" philosophy, and to constantly re examine assumptions. Appointing a devils advocate can be one way to make sure that alternative viewpoints get considered.
Another reason it's hard for teams to learn is because learning involves taking one step backwards in order to take two steps forward. In learning of any kind, there is a "U" shaped performance curve, in that performance goes down in the short term in order to go up in the long term. Teams need to be constantly on guard against the tendency to push forward in the short term at the expense of longer term progress. When I consult to teams, I encourage them to develop learning goals that take equal precedence to performance goals.
For additional information about how to accelerate team learning, here is a presentation on the topic.