Unlearning LO24500

From: Artur F. Silva (artsilva@mail.eunet.pt)
Date: 04/28/00

Replying to LO24214

I spend yesterday my afternoon reading ALL the messages under this thread.
At the end I was much more confused than I was before ;-(

One of the reasons is, I think, the fact that we have not discussed the
definitions of knowledge and learning. And I am sure that we are all using
different definitions and concepts.

In a different post I have already tried to discuss the definitions
proposed by Rick. My mail was not very clear, I assume.

So, I will come back to Rick's definitions. Sorry Rick is nothing against
you ;-) By the contrary; in the middle of my confusion your is the only
post that have tried to put the question in relation with definitions.

At 21:58 20-03-2000 -0500, Richard Karash wrote:
>If "learning" is having a certain belief or coming into the habit of a
>certain behavior, then I agree that we may have to "unlearn" in order to
>make progress.
>But, I use "knowledge" as the capacity for effective action and "learning"
>as increasing knowledge, that is, increasing capacity.

I have told that I saw this definition some time ago; but I think now it
was not from you, but in the Dance of Change.

My problem is with the word "effective". I think that "effective" as two
meanings: (1) if I have designed something, tried to create it and have
fulfilled the objective; (2) if I have done something without any conscious
intention but, by luck or tacit knowledge, I got a good result this
can also be called "effective".

I call the first "effective by design" and it seemed very important some
years ago, when strategies were designed more than emergent (Mintzberg
word), and "Planning and Control way" and "intentional actions based in
expressive Knowledge" where the major realities. Every time we think about
tacit knowledge as being central to the reason a manager, a professional
(or a basketball player) is effective, the thing is less clear.

How do we decide if a certain manager tacit knowledge is effective? Wow
do you decide that it has ceased to de so? Wow do we decide that a
previous skill is still effective but less effective than a new one.

In what concerns tacit knowledge (that is intrinsically linked with
values, behaviours and habitudes) how do we distinguish "true knowledge"
from "knowledge" that has been effective but is not a so accurate
description of the real world as a knew one?

In "The Dance of change" there is your definition of Knowledge (page 421
of the UK edition. But, in the next paragraph, to clarify this meaning, it
is a quotation from Maturana "All knowing is doing. All doing is knowing".
This makes sense for me: if I do something (if I "effectively" do
something") so I have a Knowledge or skill. Even if my action was "wrong"
(to some standard) I have the corresponding knowledge. And if I have a
Knowledge or skill (unless it is an instinct) I somehow have learnt it. In
"The Dance of Change" the next subject is precisely on Tacit Knowledge. I
am not going to repeat here the quotation I made in a different post.
Please assume it is also here ;-)

Tacit knowledge is not quantitative by nature, is not even easy to decide
what is a good or a bad tacit knowledge; as a consequence I can't see how
one can define "learning as an INCREASE in knowledge".

I have learn (or I have been in my early age inculturated with) tacit
knowledge, that can be useful or not, that can de easily modified or not.
If my tacit knowledge is persistent and difficult to change, and if I (or
an organisation) want to learn other things the old knowledge persists and
makes the new learning difficult or impossible, UNLESS some procedures for
"unlearning" are carefully designed and implemented (or happen by
chance...). That is why I think that "unlearning" is an important concept.
But of course I may be wrong and all comments and criticisms are welcome.

Leavitt and March defined "organizational learning"as "encoding inferences
from history into routines that guide behavior". I think this definition
can also be applied to individuals, if one is considering mainly tacit
knowledge. So (today) ineffective knowledge is also knowledge, and it has
been learnt some time ago, and then it was eventually effective.


Artur F. Silva <artsilva@mail.eunet.pt>


"Artur F. Silva" <artsilva@mail.eunet.pt>

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